March Question of the Month

March 15, 2017

Will I Receive Medicare if I am approved for disability benefits?

The short answer is yes. Everyone eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is also eligible for Medicare, but you won’t get Medicare benefits right away. The Social Security Administration requires a 24-month waiting period from the time you are eligible for cash payments. After you have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, the Social Security Administration will enroll you in Medicare. They start counting the 24 months from your first month of entitlement to a disability payment. There are a few exceptions to the 24-month qualifying period. For example, individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and those on dialysis for kidney failure qualify for Medicare coverage earlier.

An example may be useful. Suppose that Social Security finds that your disability began on January 2, 2016. There is a waiting period of five full months for the cash benefit to begin. As the cash benefit begins in July 2016, Medicare eligibility begins in July 2018.

Those who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, on the other hand, are not eligible for Medicare, with a few exceptions. Instead, they may be eligible for Medicaid. Many states, including Illinois, use their own eligibility rules for Medicaid, which are different from SSA`s SSI rules. If you are approved for SSI and you are not already receiving Medicaid, you must file a separate application for Medicaid.