Eligibility to start Medicare coverage normally begins the month you turn 65, or if you're disabled at any age. You can sign up for Medicare three months before you turn 65 even if you're not yet getting retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration suggests using its online retirement application to sign up for Medicare only. If you're already getting Social Security or railroad retirement benefits, you'll be enrolled in Medicare automatically at age 65.
If you become disabled and you have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Income benefits or a railroad disability annuity, you are eligible for Medicare. There is a 24-month waiting period, but enrollment is automatic. The waiting period is waived if you’ve had a kidney transplant or get dialysis treatments due to kidney failure. The period is also waived for people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. You must qualify to get SSDI benefits or a railroad disability annuity, and you must submit an application. Medicare coverage begins automatically at the same time your SSDI or railroad disability benefits begin.
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