Can You Take Medicare Early?

Last month a reader asked me if they could get a Medigap policy if they took early Medicare.  That is a common misunderstanding.

Both Social Security Retirement and Medicare are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.  It is easy to get them confused.However, Social Security and Medicare have different qualification requirements.

I am not a government employee.  I am not qualified to answer detailed questions about either Social Security or Medicare.  Below is the answer I gave to their question.

Use the form to ask your insurance question.
Use the form to ask your insurance question.

“It is a common area of confusion.  Social Security and Medicare are 2 different programs even though they are administered by the same governmental agency.  There is such a thing as taking early Social Security but no Medicare.  Unless you qualify for Medicare because you have been on Social Security Disability for 24 months, or have one of a few other health conditions that qualify you for Medicare, you can start Social Security payments at age 62 but not Medicare until you are 65.  The age 65 may be extended to 67 during entitlement reform discussions between the White House and Congress next year.

Because of the way the law works the answer to your question is not a simple yes or no.  If you qualify for Medicare for health reasons, your ability to get Medigap will depend on the laws in your state.  For example, here in TX a person who is new to Medicare prior to age 65 is only able to get Medigap Plan A and it is very expensive.  They are able to change to any of the other Medigap plans at age 65.
If, however, you mean that you are going to take early Social Security payments, things are a bit different. In 2014 you will need to enroll for health insurance through one of the new health insurance exchanges. Until then, your options are to remain uninsured or obtain a Major Medical health insurance policy through the individual market. AARP does not offer that type of coverage but you will probably have a few options in your state. If you need any help with that, let me know your state and zip code.”
Medigap Bandaid
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