If you've begun receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, it's time to think about signing up for Medicare. In most cases, if you're receiving Social Security Disability Benefits then you become eligible for Medicare two years after starting to receive benefits. In some cases, it's even sooner.

Who can receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

Broadly speaking, adults under sixty-five must be either blind or disabled and in straitened financial circumstances to receive benefits. In addition, they must be willing to demonstrate this by allowing the federal government to review their financial records and remaining in the United States to apply. The disabling condition must, in the judgment of the Social Security Administration, be expected to last longer than twelve months (or be life-threatening) and prevent you from doing substantive work. Finally, you must demonstrate that you've worked recently and for a certain number of years.

Can anyone receive Medicare before the two-year mark?

Those with Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), certain government employees (and their dependents) and those with permanent kidney failure are eligible for Medicare before reaching the two-year mark on social security disability payments.

What can fill the gap between the time I become disabled and receipt of Medicare benefits?

The 1985 Consolidate Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families the right to retain health benefits for eighteen months after ending employment. For disabled workers, an eleven-month extension can be added so long as it is applied for early enough in advance for the Social Security Administration to process your claim. After twenty-nine months, the five-month waiting period for disability benefits and the two-year waiting period for Medicare will be over. Be aware though, that you will often have to pay a substantially higher premium during the disability extension period.

Will I be able to buy a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy?

Federal law does not force insurers to sell Medicare Supplement policies to those under sixty-five. However, twenty-eight states have laws that require insurers to sell Medicare supplement policies to disabled adults. Check your state insurance bureau for more details as these laws vary. When your age cohort enterers open enrollment at age sixty-five, you will want to purchase a new Medicare Supplement policy as you will have access to more, lower-premium plans. The following states require insurers to offer at least one kind of Medicare Supplement policy to disabled adults:

California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Tennessee
Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North, Carolina, Texas
Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Vermont
Florida, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Wisconsin
Georgia, Maryland, New, Hampshire, Pennsylvania
Hawaii, Massachusetts, New, Jersey, South, Dakota