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When Medicare was enacted in 1965, it covered only older people – those 65-years old or more. In 1972, Congress added coverage for people with long-term disabilities, recognizing that like older people, they were often unable to obtain health insurance. To limit the cost of covering this new cohort, Congress added a 24-month waiting period before coverage begins for people with disabilities. The waiting period was also intended to avoid overlapping with private insurance coverage and to ensure Medicare was available only for people with long-term disabilities. In practice, the 24-month waiting period has left millions of disabled people without health insurance, further jeopardizing their health and well-being.

Ms. Toth, a resident in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District, is an example of people caught in Medicare’s 24-month waiting period. She contacted my office in February, 2014. She received a fully favorable decision for Social Security Disability in May, 2012. Therefore, she was still waiting for Medicare to begin, in May, 2104. She did not qualify for Medicaid but did not have enough income to pay for the doctor visits and medicines she needed. It was very hard for her to get better when sick, or even maintain her health because she couldn’t afford necessary care. The best we could do at the time was help her navigate some social services – energy, SNAP, etc. until her Medicare kicked in.

Fast forward to a follow-up call in June, 2014. Ms. Toth called to report she is now covered by Medicare. Having Medicare has taken a huge burden off her. She is able to obtain nursing care at home, is seeing her doctors when needed and can get the medicines she needs to stay well. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with leukemia since her original call to my office, so she is now more in need of, and grateful for, Medicare coverage than ever!

─ Congressman Joe Courtney (2d Dis. CT)

For more information on Medicare coverage for people with disabilities, see:

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