Disability and the 24 Month Medicare Waiting Period

One of the key benefits of getting on Social Security Disability (SSD, also known as SSDI) is the access to Medicare before the age of 65. Unfortunately, Congress has long imposed a two year waiting period on the disabled who are under the age of 65 before they can qualify. Of course if you are receiving SSI, you should qualify for state run Medicaid. This two year period begins from the date you become eligible to receive SSD benefits, not from the date you were found disabled. This is a problem for many disabled people who have already waited close to two years from the time they first applied to the time they receive a favorable hearing from an Administrative Law Judge who heard their disability appeal.

Access to Medicare for those receiving SSD who are under the age of 65 requires that you are found to be disabled, unable to work, and that you wait for two years from when you begin to receive SSD benefits. So what do you do while you wait?

As AARP reports, one of the places to go is to your state heath insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. (1) While you must contribute to the cost of health insurance under Obamacare, you may qualify for a substantial subsidy to make this insurance very affordable even as premiums continue to rise. If your income is so low, or non-existent, that you cannot afford even subsidized premiums under the ACA exchange in your state, then you may qualify for Medicaid while you wait for your 24 months Medicare waiting period to expire. However, you will need to check with your state because not all states expanded their Medicaid programs under the ACA even though the Federal government offered to offset a significant portion of their costs. However, it would be prudent to watch carefully what happens to the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare following the recent election as many changes have been proposed which may affect the disabled.

One other option for people is their COBRA policy. But for the disabled, this may not be a realistic option if they have no source of income.

In the final analysis, there is often no good option for people, particularly those with restrictive Medicaid access. There was an effort to eliminate the two year waiting period in a draft of the ACA (Obamacare) but it never made it into the final bill.

(1) http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-04-2010/ask_ms_medicare_question_82.html