Does Someone on Social Security Disability Get Free Medicare?

Learn whether Medicare is free for disability recipients or if you'll have to pay monthly premiums and a deductible.

Updated by , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

When Social Security approves you for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, that means you'll eventually get access to Medicare benefits too. You'll be eligible for Medicare two years after your entitlement date for SSDI benefits. (Your entitlement date is the date that your disability backpay is paid from; see our article on when Medicare kicks in for SSDI recipients to determine your entitlement date).

Do you have to pay for Medicare on SSDI? It depends.

Do SSDI Recipients Have to Pay for Medicare?

Getting approved for SSDI makes you eligible for Medicare earlier than you otherwise would be (at age 65), but it only pays your Part A monthly premiums.

Medicare Part B isn't free for disability recipients. The program has premiums, deductibles, and copays, and the costs go up every year (more on this below).

Fortunately, anyone with low income and assets, including individuals who receive SSDI and aren't eligible for SSI disability, can receive help from their states in paying for Medicare premiums if they have low income and assets.

Medicare Savings Programs: State Help With Medicare

The state programs that help pay Medicare premiums are called Medicare Savings Programs. States pay for these programs with Medicaid money.

The most generous program, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program, will pay all of your Medicare Part B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. Its income limits are quite low (roughly the same as the federal poverty level).

Two other programs, the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) and the Qualifying Individual (QI) programs, have somewhat higher income limits, and thus fewer benefits, than the QMB program. The SLMB and QI programs pay all or part of the Medicare Part B monthly premiums, but they don't pay for any Medicare deductibles or coinsurance amounts.

For help determining whether you qualify for help paying Medicare costs, check with your local social service office.

Medicare Premiums, Deductibles, and Copays

Here are the Medicare costs for 2024 and how you can get help paying them.

Part A Costs

Part A premiums. As an SSDI recipient, you don't have to pay the Part A monthly premium.

Part A copays. If you stick with traditional Medicare (rather than a Medicare Advantage plan), and you need hospital or skilled nursing care, you'll have to pay the first $1,632 in costs (your deductible) before Medicare will start paying anything.

Once you've satisfied the deductible, the first 60 days in the hospital (or 20 days in skilled nursing care) are free. If you still need inpatient care after that, you will be responsible for the following copays:

  • hospital days 61-90: $408 per day
  • hospital days 91 and beyond: $816 per day, or
  • skilled nursing days 21-100: $204 per day.

Help paying premiums and copays. Medicare can be quite expensive for those on disability who aren't fully insured, but if you're eligible to be a Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) because your income is low, your state's Medicare Savings Program will pay your Part A premium, and possibly other costs as well.

Part B Costs

Premiums. Part B pays for doctor's visits. Most people pay a Part B premium of $174.70 each month. If your adjusted gross income is over $103,000 (or $206,000 for a couple), the monthly premium can be over $500. (See the details in Nolo's article on Medicare costs.)

Deductibles. The Part B deductible for 2023 is $240 per year. Again, if you have low income, your state's Medicare Savings Program may pay your Part B premium and deductible.

Note that you can't get Part B without being enrolled in Part A.

Part D Costs

Premiums. Part D premiums vary depending on the plan you choose. The average Part D premium in 2024 is $55, but plans can charge a surcharge if you make over $103,000 per year. Some plans have no premium.

Deductibles. The maximum Part D deductible for 2024 is $545 per year, but some plans waive the deductible.

Extra help. For people with limited income and assets, Medicare offers "Extra Help" for prescription drug costs. This Extra Help covers the costs of a Medicare prescription drug plan, including monthly premiums and prescription co-pays. The application is online at For more information, see Nolo's article on the Extra Help subsidy.

Medicare Advantage Plans

You can often save money on Medicare costs by joining a Medicare Advantage plan that offers coverage through an HMO or PPO. Many Medicare Advantage plans don't charge a monthly premium (but you still have to pay the Part B premium), and some plans don't charge copays for doctor visits and other services.

Medicare Advantage plans often include Part D prescription drug coverage, with small copays and a low or no drug premium. Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer extra benefits such as dental care, eyeglasses, or wellness programs. People entitled to Medicare due to a disability are allowed to join any Medicare Advantage plan.

For more details on the 2024 costs of Medicare, see Nolo's article on Medicare premiums, deductibles, and copays in 2024.

Can Someone Getting SSI Disability Benefits Get Medicare?

People who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aren't qualified to receive Medicare insurance coverage until they reach the age of 65. (Instead, they're eligible for Medicaid.)

But on turning 65, SSI recipients can receive Medicare based solely on age. How? By filing an "uninsured Medicare claim."

The SSI program actually requires SSI beneficiaries to file uninsured Medicare claims, so that some of the Medicaid burden will be taken off of the states. It's cheaper for states to pay the Medicare premiums for their Medicaid recipients rather than to continue paying for all of their medical expenses through Medicaid. By doing this, Medicare becomes the primary payer for the recipient and Medicaid becomes the secondary payer.

Learn more about the Medicare and Medicaid that comes with disability benefits.

Updated December 29, 2023

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