Social Security & Medicare Questions: February 2011

Social Security & Medicare Questions: February 2011

Q: Can people receive Medicare coverage when they turn 62, especially if they have no insurance of any kind? I just can’t seem to find affordable health insurance when living on a fixed income. I know I’m not eligible for Medicaid but what about Medicare?

A: Despite the recent passage of healthcare reform legislation, the problem of finding affordable health insurance for people 55 to 62 is still with us. The eligibility age for Medicare is still 65. If you’re disabled and receiving Social Security disability benefits, then you would qualify for Medicare after a two-year waiting period.

I would not advise going without health insurance. Should you be hospitalized, or develop a chronic health condition, the costs of uninsured care could put you at extreme financial risk. Instead, here’s what I suggest you try:

• Check the Medicare website: One of the best sources of information for seniors about health insurance is through State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs. You can get contact information here —, or call your local Area Agency on Aging.

• Do a Benefits Checkup: This website will take you through a simple screening process, and provide a comprehensive list of all the benefit programs in your area that you may qualify for. Your print out comes complete with contact numbers where you can learn more. The website can be found at: Even if you don’t have a computer, get a family member to help you or visit your local library.

• Check your local community public health department: Virtually every area of the country has programs for people of modest means, who don’t necessarily qualify for Medicaid. Check with your local public health department. In my rural county in Central Virginia we have a public health clinic, visiting mobile mammogram and other screening units, periodic free dental care days, and a program that helps qualified people get their prescriptions at much lower costs through pharmacy assistance programs that are maintained by pharmaceutical companies. Income limits vary so investigate.

• Check your state’s website to see if there’s information about health insurance plans for people your age in your state: If you do an internet search for health plans beware, insurance companies need to be licensed to do business in your particular state. The website of your State Insurance Commissioner is a helpful resource to check before you start.