Senior woman wearing a neck brace using a tablet to look up ‘Does Medicare cover disability insurance?’

If you have a disability, you may be wondering: does Medicare cover disability insurance? Can you apply for Social Security’s disability benefits and Medicare at the same time?

Medicare is a totally separate program from the government’s disability insurance, as well as from private disability income insurance. We’ll go over what these programs are, how to get them, and why having your own disability insurance policy might be a great back-up for the future.

Jump to a section:

What is Medicare?
What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
Can you have SSDI and Medicare?
Why disability income insurance is a great alternative

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What is Medicare?

Disabled senior man in a wheelchair doing physical therapy with dumbbells

Medicare is a government health insurance program available for people age 65 and over. It also covers people under that age who have qualifying disabilities. If you have a disability, there are several ways you can qualify for Medicare:

  • Receive Social Security Disability benefits for 24 months
  • Have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or ESRD (end-stage renal disease, usually three months after dialysis begins or after a kidney transplant). If you have either of these conditions, you don’t have to have 24 months of Social Security benefits in order to qualify.

Since Medicare benefits for disability are so closely tied to Social Security disability benefits, let’s take a look at those next. In most cases, you’ll need to start there before you can qualify for Medicare.

➡️ Want to talk to a real person about the benefits of owning your own disability insurance instead of relying on Medicare? Click the button below to schedule a call!

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What Is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

If you have a qualifying disability and are eligible, you can apply for benefits from the government’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

Young woman in a wheelchair using her laptop to look up social security disability insurance

What makes you eligible? First, you need to have worked long enough to have qualified. Because this program is funded by payroll tax deductions, it’s only available to people who have paid enough into the Social Security system to qualify. The longer you work, the more “work credits” you earn. As of 2023, you need 40 work credits (1 credit = $1,640 in income), with 20 of those credits earned in the 10 years before your disability began. Click here for the SSA’s information on how you earn work credits. The more credits you have, the larger your benefit amount will be.

What makes your disability eligible? First, your disability must be expected to last at least one year (or be serious enough to likely result in death). That means you’re probably unable to stand, walk, sit, lift, or remember things required to do your job. If you’re unable to do your own job, the SSA will ask if you can do any other type of work. If so, you may not qualify. SSA also keeps a list of covered medical conditions. If your condition isn’t on that list, you may still qualify, but it’s going to involve more paperwork. If you’re only able to work part-time, check your last paystub. As of 2023, your disability must be serious enough to keep you from earning more than $1,470 a month to qualify for benefits. Click here for more information on qualifying disabilities.

If you qualify, there is a five-month waiting period. Your date of eligibility is five months to the day from the onset of your disability. You’d receive your first payment in the sixth month. In most cases, the program will pay until you can go back to work.

➡️ Want to talk to a real person about the benefits of owning your own disability insurance instead of relying on SSDI? Click the button below to schedule a call!

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Can You Have SSDI and Medicare?

Disabled man in a wheelchair with his wife beside him, looking up information about SSDI and Medicare on his smartphone


If you’ve already qualified for SSDI and received benefits for 2 years (24 months), you automatically qualify for Medicare. You’ll receive your Medicare paperwork as soon as you cross that eligibility threshold – you don’t have to do anything.

However, if you’ve had previous periods of disability, some or all of those periods may count towards your waiting period. Here’s how to tell if those previous periods of SSDI count:

  • Within 60 months after the last month you received disability benefits
  • Within 84 months after the last month you received widow’ or widowers’ disability benefits
  • Any time if the reason for your disability is either the same or related to the health problem that caused your previous period of disability benefits

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Why Disability Income Insurance Is a Great Alternative

There’s a third option that’s also available: private disability insurance. If you buy a disability insurance policy on your own, it works just like your home or car insurance. If you get sick or hurt and can’t work, you file a claim with your insurer, who pays out according to your policy specifications. Disability insurance is designed to pay you a percentage of your pre-disability income, just like the government programs.

The catch? You need to have it before you experience a disability. If you’re reading this right now and are still able to work, now is the time to apply so your coverage is in place when you need it.

Smiling man in a wheelchair hugging his young son

There are lots of benefits to owning your own disability insurance policy:

  • No government paperwork or red tape.
  • No requirements to evaluate whether you can retrain for a different type of work, like with government disability (SSDI).
  • No requirements to have worked a certain amount prior to your disability, like with government disability (SSDI).
  • Have questions? It’s a lot easier to contact your insurance agent or carrier than it is to deal with the government.

Want to know how disability insurance works? Click here – we’ll explain it in a lot more detail.

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