The majority of people in the United States become eligible for Medicare once they reach the age of 65. An individual must be a citizen of the United States or a permanent legal resident and must meet requirements for Social Security or railroad retirement benefits.
Individuals who have not reached the age of 65 can qualify for Medicare if they meet specific requirements. These requirements include receiving Social Security disability pay for a minimum of 24 months, receiving railroad disability pensions, and having permanent kidney failure or Lou Gehrig's disease. Individuals who have never worked may also qualify based on their spouses' work records.