Medicare was created by Congress in 1965.
It is a health insurance program for:
• People age 65 and older
• People under age 65 with disabilities who have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for a set amount of time (24 months in most cases). People with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, automatically get Medicare Parts A and B the month their disability benefits begin.
• People of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).
Medicare is the nation’s largest health insurance program, currently covering about 44 million Americans.
While Medicare is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS),
the Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for enrolling most people in
Medicare. The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is responsible for enrolling railroad
retirees in Medicare.
The Social Security Administration advises people to apply for Medicare benefits 3 months before age 65. People do not have to be retired to get Medicare. Unlike Social Security (for which the full retirement age is gradually increasing to 67), people can still receive full Medicare benefits at age 65.
Medicare benefits can begin no earlier than age 65 except for some people with a disability or End-Stage Renal Disease.
People who are already receiving Social Security benefits (for example, getting early retirement) will be automatically enrolled in Medicare without an additional application.
They will receive a Medicare card and other information about 3 months before age 65
or their 25th month of disability benefits.