Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older. It is also available to certain younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease.

 

Medicare is comprised of several parts. Medicare Part A provides inpatient/hospital coverage. Part A is premium free if you worked for at least 10 years. You may also be eligible for coverage if your spouse worked for at least 10 years. The Part A deductible is $1,632 for each time you’re admitted to the hospital per benefit period, before Original Medicare starts to pay.

 

Medicare Part B provides outpatient/medical coverage, including doctors office visits and services. It also covers home health care; durable medical equipment, like wheelchairs, hospital beds and other equipment; and many preventive services, like screenings, vaccines and yearly wellness visits.

The Medicare Part B premium in 2024 is $174.70 per month (or higher, depending on your income). The amount can change each year. You might pay a penalty if you don’t sign up for Part B when you first become eligible for Medicare (usually when you turn 65). The deductible for Part B in 2024 is $240. You pay this deductible once each year. Additionally, you will usually pay a coinsurance of 20% for the cost of each Medicare-covered service or item after you’ve met your deductible.

Medicare Parts A and B are often referred to as “Original Medicare.”

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. Monthly premiums vary based on the plan you select.

Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. It’s an umbrella term for private insurance programs that offer several coverage types, often combining Parts A, B and D. It may also include dental, vision and hearing coverage. Deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments vary based on which plan you join. You’re also limited to in-network providers on an Advantage plan, unlike on Original Medicare, which is universally accepted. 

A Medicare supplement is a private insurance plan that works in conjunction with Medicare to keep your costs low or even at zero. 

If you are already receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you may be automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. However, if you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll need to actively enroll in Medicare Part B during the Initial Enrollment Period, or IEP. This period begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after.