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If I retire at age 62, will I be eligible for Medicare?


No, you can’t qualify for Medicare before age 65 unless you have a disabling medical condition.

People younger than 65 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits typically get Medicare 24 months after they become eligible for disability benefits. The waiting period is waived for people who have permanent kidney failure, known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Everyone else needs to wait until age 65 to become eligible for Medicare, no matter when they retire. You can sign up during your seven-month initial enrollment period (IEP), beginning three months before the month you turn 65 and ending three months after your birthday month. The coverage begins no earlier than the month you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first of the month, coverage starts at the beginning of the previous month.

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How can I get health insurance before age 65?

If you retire at 62 and lose your employer’s health insurance, you’ll need to find other coverage until Medicare begins. You have several options.

You can transition to retiree health insurance if your employer offers it. But few companies offer retiree health insurance benefits these days.

You can get insurance through your spouse’s employer if the company offers coverage to dependents. You can qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) to switch to this coverage within 30 days of losing coverage under your plan, or your spouse can add you to the coverage during the company’s annual open enrollment period.

You can keep your employer’s coverage through COBRA, a federal law that requires employers with 20 or more employees to continue coverage after you leave your job. Many states have similar requirements for smaller employers.

You’ll have up to 60 days after your employer-sponsored health insurance ends to sign up for COBRA. The coverage can last for up to 18 months after you leave your job.

If you continue your current coverage on COBRA, your benefits and provider network won’t change. Any money you’ve paid toward this year’s deductible will still count.

But your premiums will increase. You’ll probably have to pay both the employer’s and the employee’s share of premiums after you leave your job, plus up to 2 percent in administrative expenses. Most employers cover 70 to 80 percent of the premiums for their employees.

Are there options that aren't through an employer?

Individual health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) federal marketplace or a state that has its own exchange. Open enrollment generally runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15 (or the next business day) for states that use the federal HealthCare.gov exchange. Some states have different time frames. You can review plans and prices in your area or find links to your state marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

If you’re losing medical coverage because you’re retiring, you can qualify for a SEP to get marketplace coverage within 60 days after the end of your health coverage.

You may qualify for a subsidy to help pay premiums based on your household income for the year, which is likely to be lower after you retire. The subsidy can reduce premiums significantly. In fact, the size of the subsidy and income levels for eligibility were expanded from 2021 to 2025. KFF’s subsidy calculator can help you estimate how much help you can receive.

You may qualify for Medicaid, a joint federal-state insurance program, if your household income is below a certain threshold that varies by state. The ACA allowed for the expansion of Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but not all states have expanded coverage. You can do a quick screening to see if you're eligible at HealthCare.gov or your state marketplace.

You can search for a community health center near you if none of the options above works for you. The ACA increased federal money for community-based public or nonprofit clinics. You can often find them in areas with few doctor’s offices and hospitals, and with high rates of uninsured patients. Payment is on a sliding scale based on income.

The BenefitsCheckUp website from the National Council on Aging can help you find benefit programs in your area. You can answer a series of questions to help determine eligibility.

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Keep in mind

If you sign up for Social Security benefits at least four months before age 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65. (The rules are different in Puerto Rico.) However, the age to receive full Social Security benefits is no longer 65; it began to increase for people born in 1938 and later and is now between 66 and 67 for people born between 1955 and 1959, increasing by two months for each birth year. It will be 67 for people born in 1960 and later.

If you haven’t signed up for Social Security at least four months before your 65th birthday, you’ll need to take steps to enroll in Medicare yourself. You can sign up during your initial enrollment period or you can qualify for a special enrollment period later if you or your spouse are still working and you have health insurance from that employer. You'll need to enroll in Medicare no later than eight months after losing that coverage or else you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

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