Q. I’m 55 and filing for Social Security disability benefits. I’m told I have to be on disability for two years before getting Medicare. What are disabled people supposed to do without health insurance for two years when we are in desperate need of coverage?
A. It’s true that most people* under age 65 who qualify for Social Security disability must wait 24 months before becoming eligible for Medicare. Consumer advocates, including AARP, have long opposed this two-year delay. A proposal to abolish it was originally included in the health care reform legislation of 2010 but did not make it into the final law.
Even so, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), did change things. It gives people access to health insurance — without past or present health problems being taken into account — to all U.S. citizens and legal residents (green card holders) who don’t have insurance from an employer. For the first time, people with disabilities (who by definition have at least one pre-existing medical condition) have guaranteed access to health coverage while they wait 24 months for Medicare to kick in.