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Eligibility for Medicare

Medicare is the U.S. government's health insurance program for citizens ages 65 and older. People of any age with certain disabilities also may qualify for Medicare.

Are You Eligible for Medicare?

To qualify for Medicare, you must be:

  • A U.S. resident or a legal resident living in the U.S. for at least 5 consecutive years
  • Age 65 or older
  • Younger than 65 with a qualifying disability, such as:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
    • Permanent kidney failure (end-stage renal disease) requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant
    • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease

Exceptions to Eligibility and Enrollment

Unless you recently turned 65, you typically have to wait until the start of the standard enrollment period on October 15 to enroll in a private Medicare insurance plan. Check out our enrollment timeline  to find out when you can sign up for Medicare.

Certain exceptions may allow you to participate in a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) and sign up for a plan at different times during the year. You may be eligible for a SEP if you:

  • Retired after the age of 65
  • Moved and need to switch plans because your old plan isn't offered in your new geographic area
  • Became a resident of a nursing home
  • Need to leave an employee health plan
  • Involuntarily lost prescription drug coverage
  • Meet certain low-income qualifications