Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to retired individuals, regardless of their medical condition, and certain younger people with disabilities or end-stage renal disease. Here are some basic facts about Medicare that you should know.
What does Medicare cover?
Medicare coverage consists of two main parts: Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). These parts together are known as Original Medicare. A third part, Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage), covers all Part A and Part B services, and may provide additional services. A fourth part, Medicare Part D, offers prescription drug coverage that can help you handle the rising costs of prescriptions.
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
Generally known as hospital insurance, Part A covers services associated with inpatient hospital care. These are the costs associated with an overnight stay in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or psychiatric hospital, including charges for the hospital room, meals, and nursing services. Part A also covers hospice care and home health care.
Medicare Part B (medical insurance)
Generally known as medical insurance, Part B covers other medical care. Physician care — whether you received it as an inpatient at a hospital, as an outpatient at a hospital or other health-care facility, or at a doctor's office — is covered under Part B. Laboratory tests, physical therapy or rehabilitation services, and ambulance service are also covered. Medicare Part B also covers 100% of the cost of many preventative services and an annual wellness visit.
Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)
A Medicare Advantage plan is a private health-care plan that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits. A Medicare Advantage plan covers all of the services that Original Medicare covers except hospice care. Some plans offer extra coverage for expenses not covered by Original Medicare such as vision, hearing, dental, and other health expenses. Most also offer prescription drug (Part D) coverage. Several types of Medicare Advantage plans may be available, including health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, preferred provider organization (PPO) plans, private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans, and special needs plans (SNPs). You can choose to enroll in either Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you'll generally pay a monthly premium for it, in addition to your Part B premium.
Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)
All Medicare beneficiaries are eligible to join a Medicare prescription drug plan offered by private companies or insurers that have been approved by Medicare. Although these plans vary in price and benefits, they all cover a broad number of brand name and generic drugs available at local pharmacies or through the mail. Medicare prescription drug coverage is voluntary, but if you decide to join a plan, keep in mind that some plans cover more drugs or offer a wider selection of pharmacies (for a higher premium) than others. You can get information and help with comparing plans on the Medicare website, medicare.gov, or by calling a Medicare counselor at 1-800-Medicare.
What is not covered by Medicare Parts A and B?
Some medical expenses are not covered by either Part A or B. These expenses include:
- Your Part B premium
- Deductibles, coinsurance, or co-payments that apply
- Most prescription drugs
- Dental care
- Hearing aids
- Eye care
- Custodial care at home or in a nursing home
Medicare Part C may cover some of these expenses, or if you're enrolled in Original Medicare you can purchase a supplemental Medigap insurance policy that will help cover what Medicare does not.
Are you eligible for Medicare?
Most people age 65 or older who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States are eligible for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) without paying a monthly premium. You are eligible at age 65 if:
- You receive or are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits based on your own work record or on someone else's work record (as a spouse, divorced spouse, widow, widower, divorced widow, divorced widower, or parent), or
- You or your spouse worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid
In addition, if you are under age 65, you can get Part A without paying a monthly premium if you have received Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for 24 months, or if you are on kidney dialysis or are a kidney transplant patient.
Even if you're not eligible for free Part A coverage, you may still be able to purchase it by paying a premium. Call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at (800) 772-1213 for more information.
Although Medicare Part B (medical insurance) is optional, most people sign up for it. If you want to join a Medicare managed care plan or a Medicare private fee-for-service plan, you'll need to enroll in both Parts A and B. And Medicare Part B is never free — you'll pay a monthly premium for it, even if you are eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A.
How much does Medicare cost?
Medicare deductible amounts and premiums change annually. Here's what you'll pay in 2020 if you're enrolled in Original Medicare:
|Part A (hospital)||None for most people, but noneligible individuals pay up to $458 per month (if they have 39 or fewer quarters of Medicare-covered employment)||$1,408 per benefit period||$352 a day for the 61st to 90th day each benefit period; $704 a day for the 91st to 150th day for each lifetime reserve day (total of 60 lifetime reserve days); $176 a day for the 21st to 100th day each benefit period for skilled nursing facility care|
|Part B (medical)||The standard Part B premium amount is $144.60 (subject to an income-based adjustment). However, some people who get Social Security benefits will pay less than this amount. See below for more information.||$198 per year||After satisfying a deductible if one applies, you normally pay 20% of the approved amount for medical expenses (20 to 40% for outpatient mental health services, 20% for hospital charges for outpatient hospital services, nothing for laboratory services)|
If you have your premiums deducted from your Social Security benefits, and the increase in your benefits for 2020 will not be enough to cover the Medicare Part B increase, then you may pay less than the standard Part B premium. Otherwise, you may pay the standard Part B premium of $144.60. You'll also pay the standard Part B premium of $144.60 (or higher) if:
- You enroll in Part B for the first time in 2020.
- You don't get Social Security benefits.
- You're directly billed for your Part B premiums.
- You have Medicare and Medicaid, and Medicaid pays your premiums.
- Your modified adjusted gross income as reported on your federal income tax return from two years ago is above a certain amount.*
The table below shows what you'll pay if you're in this group.
|If you file an individual income tax return with income that is: ||If you file a joint income tax return with income that is: ||If you file an income tax return as married filing separately with income that is: ||Monthly premium in 2019:|
|$87,000 or less ||$174,000 or less ||$875,000 or less ||$144.60|
|above $87,000 up to $109,000||Above $174,000 up to $218,000 ||N/A ||$202.40|
|above $109,000 up to $136,000 ||Above $218,000 up to $272,000 ||N/A ||$289.20|
|above $136,000 up to $163,000 ||Above $267,000 up to $320,000 ||N/A ||$376.00|
|above $163,000 and less than $500,000 ||Above $326,000 and less than $750,000 ||Above $87,000 and less than $413,000||$462.70|
|$500,000 and above ||$750,000 and above ||$413,000 and above||$491.60|
*Beneficiaries with higher incomes have paid higher Medicare Part B premiums since 2007. To determine if you're subject to income-related premiums, the SSA uses the most recent federal tax return provided by the IRS. Generally, the tax return you filed in 2019 (based on 2018 income) will be used to determine if you will pay an income-related premium in 2020. You can contact the SSA at (800) 772-1213 if you have new information to report that might change the determination and lower your premium.
Since Original Medicare doesn't cover every type of medical care, and you'll have to pay deductibles and coinsurance, you may want to buy a Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap) policy.
Copyright 2006-2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.