Am I eligible for Medicare if I am 60 and unemployed?

Jory Cross by Jory Cross | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 10/06/2018

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Some companies or unions might offer early retirement packages. This can be tempting, but you may want to make sure you can still get health insurance through the company or union after you retire. You are probably not eligible for Medicare if you retire at age 60.

Are you eligible for Medicare?

To be eligible for Medicare coverage, generally you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are age 65 or older
  • You are a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal resident who has lived in the United States for at least five years

Whether you’re eligible for Medicare doesn’t typically depend on whether you’re employed or unemployed. However, when you become eligible for Medicare, your employment history might affect how much you pay for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). You typically don’t have to pay a Part A premium if you’ve worked at least 10 years while paying Medicare taxes.

Can you be eligible for Medicare before age 65?

In some cases (such as those listed below), you may be eligible for Medicare under age 65.

  • You have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months
  • You receive certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board and
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • You have permanent kidney failure requiring regular dialysis or a kidney transplant (end-stage renal disease, or ESRD).

Insurance coverage options if you’re not eligible for Medicare

If you are not yet 65, you are probably not eligible for Medicare, unless you meet the disability or illness qualifications listed above. Still, you might have other health insurance options if you’re unemployed or retire early. To bridge the period between ages 60 and 65, you may want to explore options such as:

  • You may want to check to see if your former employer offers group insurance coverage to retirees. If it does, ask if you qualify for coverage until you are eligible for Medicare.
  • If your spouse is working and has health insurance from an employer, union, or government agency, check to see if you can be added to the plan as a dependent. Your spouse may have to pay a higher monthly premium for dependent coverage.
  • You may want to buy a health insurance policy until you are eligible for Medicare. There may be several different types of health insurance available at different costs. Read more on this below.
  • If your income is low, you might look into one of these options until you are eligible for Medicare:

What types of health insurance options are there when you’re not eligible for Medicare?

You may have a few choices when it comes to health insurance. For example:

  • Major medical – a major medical plan usually covers many types of medical services, such as doctor visits and hospitalization. Coverage details vary among plans. You generally pay some kind of cost sharing, such as a deductible, copayment, or coinsurance. You might also pay a monthly premium.
  • Short-term – just as it sounds, this is limited, temporary medical coverage and generally covers you for three months. It’s often less expensive than a major medical plan. It’s not for everyone, but may help cover you when you are waiting for other coverage.
  • Critical illness – this type of insurance may pay you cash in a lump sum to help you with medical costs from a serious illness. It’s designed for medical conditions such as cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. However, it doesn’t pay your doctors or other health-care providers directly; you still may need other insurance such as major medical.

Read more about health insurance options.

When you are eligible for Medicare coverage

Whether you have a qualifying condition that makes you eligible for Medicare at age 60, or you qualify at age 65, you may have a number of options related to your Medicare coverage.

In most cases, you’ll either be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare, Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) – or you’ll need to sign up when you’re eligible. Some people delay Part B enrollment.

  • Once you’re enrolled in Part A and Part B, you generally have the option of buying a Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) plan from a private insurance company to help you pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs Medicare does not pay, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.
  • When you are eligible for Medicare, you may also be able to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare to provide coverage for commonly prescribed medications.
  • You may be able to choose a different way to receive your Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D benefits by enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits (except hospice care, which Part A still provides directly to you). Please not that not every Medicare Advantage plan includes Part D (prescription drug) coverage. Often Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits not covered by Medicare Part A and Part B.

When you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re still enrolled in the Medicare program- so you’ll still need to pay your monthly Part B premium, along with any premium the plan may charge.

Please note that in most cases, you won’t be locked permanently into a choice you make when you were first eligible for Medicare. You can generally change how you receive your Medicare coverage at specified times each year to meet your changing health-care needs and preferences.

If you have further questions regarding your Medicare eligibility or Medicare coverage options, please feel free to contact me. You can use the links below to reach me. If you wish to learn more about some of the Medicare plan options where you live, use the Compare Plans button on this page.

Benefits, premiums and/or copayments/co-insurance may change on January 1 of each year.

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