Long Wait for Medicare Fatal to Oregon Woman

Many are unaware of this fact: after one is found eligible for Social Security disability payments, there is a wait of 25 months until Medicare coverage begins. Sometimes the wait is fatal.

Sue Sherman, the subject of a June 2010 story in The Oregonian about her quiet effort to raise awareness about the Medicare waiting period for Social Security disability recipients, died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer. She qualified quickly under compassionate allowances for Social Security Disability Income in 2009, then learned of the two-year wait to enroll in Medicare — a gap instituted in 1972 to keep costs down, avoid overlaps with private insurance and to preserve Medicare for those with severe, long-lasting disabilities.

At least 15,000 Oregonians are among the 1.8 million Americans who must wait two years after obtaining Social Security disability to become eligible for Medicare. The only exceptions to the Medicare wait are for people in end-state renal failure or with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. SHe became eligible for Medicare in October 2012.

Through 2009 and 2010, Sherman contacted politicians and policymakers to point out that many disabled people spend their savings on the medical care necessary just to reach a diagnosis and can no longer get private health insurance.

For at least the past two sessions of Congress, a proposal has come forward to phase out the waiting period over 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office calculated the measure would cost an average of $10 billion a year, and the proposal went nowhere. See article here: