Common Questions

Medicare & You 2021: A First Look

Medicare & You 2021 is a handbook released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Get a first look at the handbook and download your copy.

Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) releases a handbook titled Medicare & You. The handbook, which is made available to all current and future Medicare beneficiaries, is published in the fall for the upcoming year. 

The Medicare & You 2021 guide is now available.

Click on the image below to access and download your copy from, the official website of Medicare.

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Medicare and You 2021 handbook cover

Where to get Medicare & You 2021

If you are currently enrolled in Medicare, you should have received a printed copy of Medicare & You 2021 by the end of October, 2020. If you have not received your copy, please call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to request one.

Whether or not you are enrolled in Medicare, you may view an electronic version of Medicare & You 2021 and you can download it if you wish.

What does Medicare & You 2021 cover?

Medicare & You 2021 is over 120 pages long, but here is a brief summary of what you can expect to find in the guide.

  • Updates on what's new in Medicare
    Medicare now offers a range of benefits to help beneficiaries stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's important that you know your Medicare options during the time of coronavirus. Starting in 2021, Medicare also offers new coverage for acupuncture and telehealth, as well as lower out-of-pocket costs for insulin.

  • Signing up for Medicare
    There are a number of key dates and enrollment periods during which you can sign up for Medicare. Medicare & You 2021 helps explain Medicare enrollment and can help guide you as you sign up.

  • What Medicare covers
    Medicare covers a wide range of services and items, and the Medicare & You guidebook discusses many of these in detail.

  • Your Medicare options
    If you’re new to Medicare or are considering other Medicare plan options outside of Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B), the handbook includes information about Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap).  

  • Financial assistance for Medicare health and drug costs
    Medicare & You 2021 includes information about Medicare Savings Programs and other resources for beneficiaries who need some financial assistance to help cover some of their Medicare costs.

  • Medicare rights and fraud prevention
    The handbook discusses your rights as a Medicare beneficiary and includes information about Medicare fraud and identity theft.

  • Additional Medicare resources
    Medicare & You 2021 includes a number of resources available to beneficiaries seeking answers to common Medicare questions, including the contact information for all State Health Insurance Information Programs (SHIPs).

    Your local SHIP can provide free and confidential counseling to help you understand your Medicare coverage.

  • Definitions
    There are many Medicare terms to understand, and the guidebook includes a glossary of definitions for your reference.

The better you understand Medicare, the more effectively you may be able to use your benefits. Use Medicare & You 2021 to learn the ins and outs of the Medicare program or call 1-800-MEDICARE with any questions.

Understanding the basics of Medicare

There are four basic parts of Medicare, as well as Medicare Supplement Insurance:

  • Medicare Part A
    Part A provides coverage for inpatient care at you receive hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Everyone who is enrolled in Medicare will typically have Part A.

  • Medicare Part B
    Part B provides coverage for doctor’s appointments and other types of outpatient care, along with durable medical equipment (DME). Part B is optional for all beneficiaries.

  • Medicare Part C
    Also known as Medicare Advantage, this type of Medicare insurance provides all of the same benefits as Part A and Part B combined into a single plan.

    Many Medicare Advantage plans also offer some additional benefits not covered by Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Some of these extra benefits may include coverage of prescription drugs, routine dental and vision coverage, hearing aids and gym memberships

  • Medicare Part D
    Part D plans provide coverage exclusively for prescription drugs. Most Medicare Advantage plans include Part D coverage. If you have Original Medicare, you may also be able to enroll in a Part D plan. 

  • Medicare Supplement Insurance
    Also known as Medigap, these plans are used to supplement your Part A and Part B coverage.

    A Medigap plan helps fill in the gaps left by Original Medicare by covering certain costs such as deductibles, coinsurance, copayments and other out-of-pocket Medicare expenses. 

    You can have a Medigap plan if you have Medicare Part A and Part B. You can also have Part A, Part B, a Part D drug plan and a Medigap plan.

Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans are not the same thing. You cannot be enrolled in a Medigap plan and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time.

Part A and B of Medicare are provided by the federal government. Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement Insurance are sold by private insurance companies. 

How much does Medicare cost?

Each type of Medicare coverage can come with its own costs. 

  • 2021 Part A costs
    Most people do not pay a premium for Part A of Medicare. You may qualify for premium-free Part A if you worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters (10 full years).

    If you paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 40 quarters, your Part A coverage will require a premium of either $259 or $471 per month in 2021, depending on the number of quarters you paid Medicare taxes.

  • 2021 Part B costs
    Most beneficiaries pay the Part B standard premium of $148.50 per month.

    However, higher income earners may more for their Part B coverage. This higher amount is called the Income-Related Monthly Adjusted Amount, or IRMAA.

    The highest income earners will pay $504.90 per month for their Part B coverage in 2021. 

Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement Insurance do not have standardized costs because they are sold by private insurance companies. The premiums for these plans will typically vary according to location, carrier and plan selection. 

In addition to monthly premiums, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans may feature deductibles and cost-sharing requirements like copayments or coinsurance.

Some Medicare Advantage plans feature $0 premiums, and some Part D plans may offer $0 deductibles. Plan costs and availability may vary by location. 

How do I sign up for Medicare?

There are a few different times of the year (Medicare enrollment periods) during which you may be able to enroll in different types of Medicare plans, which include your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period and the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

Medicare IEP graphic

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

Medicare beneficiaries are given an Initial Enrollment Period when they first become eligible for Medicare.

This period begins three months before you turn 65 years old, includes the month of your birthday and continues for another three months.

During this time, you may be able to enroll in different types of Medicare coverage, depending on your eligibility.

Medicare AEP graphic

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

The Annual Enrollment Period (also known as the Medicare Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans) lasts from October 15 to December 7 each year.

Depending on your situation, you may be able to make a number of changes to your Medicare coverage during this fall open enrollment period, such as adding, switching or dropping a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan.         

What if I have additional Medicare questions?

If you have questions about the Medicare coverage options available where you live, such as Medicare Advantage plans that may offer prescription drug coverage, you can get the answers you need by calling to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

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About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

Where you've seen coverage of Christian's research and reports:

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