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Too Sick to Work, Too Soon for Medicare: The Human Cost of the Two-Year Medicare Waiting Period for Americans With Disabilities

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Publication Date: April 2007

Publisher(s): Medicare Rights Center

Author(s): Heidi Kreamer; Deane Beebe; Robert M. Hayes

Funder(s): Commonwealth Fund

Funder(s): Commonwealth Fund

Topic: Health (Health services for the chronically ill)

Type: Report

Coverage: New York


In the United States, nearly 7 million people under age 65 qualify for Medicare due to severe and permanent disabilities. However, these individuals must wait two years after they are deemed eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance to receive this coverage. As a result, there are as many as 1.5 million men and women who are too disabled to return to work but who must wait to receive Medicare coverage for their health care needs. Nearly 39 percent are uninsured for at least some of this time, and 26 percent have no insurance throughout the waiting period. This report tells the stories of 21 individuals struggling to survive the 24-month waiting period. These real-life stories expose the financial hardship, pain, and suffering caused by the waiting period and provide evidence of the need for the swift enactment of legislation to eliminate the waiting period.