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Think you aren't eligible for Medicare until you're 65? Think again. You can receive Medicare benefits at an earlier age if you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, you receive a disability pension from the railroad retirement board and meet certain conditions, you have Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or you, your parent or your spouse (living or deceased, including a divorced spouse) worked long enough in a Medicare-covered government job and meet other necessary requirements.
Many people mistakenly believe that Medicaid and Medicare are the same. Actually, they are two different programs. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides hospital and medical coverage for people of limited means and resources. Each state has its own rules about who is eligible and what is covered. Some people qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. For more information about the Medicaid eligibility, contact your local medical assistance agency, social services or welfare office.
If your Medicare Part B coverage begins on or after January 1, 2005, Medicare benefits cover a one-time preventive physical exam within the first six months that you have Part B. The exam will include a thorough review of your health, education and counseling about the preventive services you need, like certain screenings and shots, and referrals for other care. The "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam is a great way to get up-to-date on important screenings and shots and to talk with your doctor about your family history and how to stay healthy. These preventative screenings are an important aspect of senior health and commiting to a healthy lifestyle.
What does Medicare eligibility get you if you qualify? Medicare benefits include prescription drugs, wheelchairs, and for the cost of supplies like glucose meters and diabetic shoes for those suffering from diabetes. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospitalization for up to 90 days. Medicare Part B covers a portion of the charges made by physicians and surgeons.
If you are new to Medicare, the Medicare benefits can be confusing. Your tax dollars pay for free booklets available from the federal government that helps explain Medicare benefits, Medicaid, and other aspects of the program. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE or download the booklets directly from the medicare website.