Medicare for Seniors 65 and Older: Low-Cost and FREE Healthcare

Seniors who are retired, or even if they are not retired, can have access to free healthcare through the federal government. Medicare is the U.S. federal health care program for senior citizens aged 65+ and people with qualified disabilities. The first version of the program was created in 1965 by former President Lyndon Johnson as a way to provide medical benefits to U.S. military personnel and their applicable family members. 

Medicare eligibility was expanded by the Social Security Act Amendments during the Eisenhower presidency and evolved into a four-plus part plan covering a wide range of services and needs, most especially for seniors. Read on for more information about Medicare plans and Medicare enrollment requirements for seniors 65 and older.

Requirements for Seniors to Access Medicare
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Medicare is a federal health care program for people who meet the Medicare eligibility age in the U.S. or meet other qualifying conditions. While younger people with qualified disabilities are also able to apply for Medicare, the program is particularly useful for the elderly. 

U.S. Seniors ages 65+ automatically qualify for Medicare provided they paid taxes during their working years and receive, or are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits. Seniors whose spouse has Medicare through a government job, seniors suffering from End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and those with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) also meet eligibility requirements. 

There are four main parts to Medicare as well, each with its own requirement variations for seniors. Requirements for Medicare Parts A through D are varied because each part covers different albeit equally important medical treatments, services, prescriptions and provider fees. 

Medicare is free in many situations but some elements of the program require premiums and out-of-pocket expenses to be paid by its members. Before you apply for Medicare it is important to understand the different terms, costs and coverage options between each available part. It is also important to understand when and how to enroll. 

The Medicare open enrollment period is a designated period of time during which seniors are required to sign up for the program. There are initial (IEP), general (for Medicare advantage plans), special (SEP) and open enrollment periods each held annually. Medicare enrollment periods in 2024 are held as follows:

  • IEP for a seven-month period starting three months prior to your sixty-fifth birthday.
  • General/Open Enrollment for Medicare Advantage from January 1 through March 31, 2024.
  • SEP varies based on exceptional situations. Starting January 1, 2024, if you sign up for Part A and/or Part B during a Special Enrollment Period, you’ll have 2 months to join a plan or switch to another plan.
  • Open enrollment from October 15 through December 7, 2024. 

Next, learn how you can receive Medicare Part A coverage.

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Updated on 05/25/2022