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 can generally get Medicare 24 months after they become eligible for disability benefits. This 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), which begins three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts for 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.
How to get health insurance before age 65
If you’re retiring at 62 and losing your employer’s health insurance, you’ll need to find other coverage until Medicare begins. You have several options. Most of these options also can help if you need coverage for other reasons, such as losing your job or facing the two-year waiting period for Medicare if you receive SSDI.
- 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 (OEP).
- 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 usually 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.