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Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B)

3 things to know about Original Medicare:

  1. It’s a federal health insurance program that covers U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents who are 65 and older, and those with certain disabilities or End Stage Renal Disease.
  2. Original Medicare consists of Part A and Part B.
  3. Part B is optional and comes with a monthly premium.

Medicare is a federal program that ensures U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents 65 years of age and older and younger individuals with certain disabilities or End Stage Renal Disease have affordable health care coverage options.

In 2019, more than 61 million people were enrolled in Medicare, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.1

There are 4 parts of Medicare: Parts A, B, C, and D. Each part offers different covered services.

 

Original Medicare” refers to Medicare Parts A and B. These parts are provided by the federal government. Medicare Part C health plans and Part D prescription drug plans are provided by private insurance companies.

Eligibility and enrollment

In order to qualify for Medicare coverage, you must be at least 65 years old and a citizen (or permanent legal resident) of the United States.

You also may qualify if you are under 65 and receive Social Security disability benefits, or if you have ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) or End-Stage Renal Disease.

Some people are enrolled in Medicare automatically. If you are not automatically signed up for Medicare, you will have to sign up for it manually.

Medicare IEP graphic

The first time you can enroll in Medicare is typically during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

Your IEP is a seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65 years old, includes the month of your birthday and continues for an additional three months.

If you don't sign up for Medicare during your IEP, you will have to wait until the General Enrollment Period to enroll.

The Medicare General Enrollment Period takes place from January 1 to March 31 each year.

More info: Medicare eligibility and enrollment

Benefits

Each part of Original Medicare provides different benefits.

  • Part A provides coverage for inpatient care at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. 

  • Part B provides coverage for doctor’s appointments and other outpatient care, along with durable medical equipment (DME) and certain preventive care. 

More info: Medicare benefits

Costs

Most people qualify for premium-free Part A. If you don't qualify for premium-free Part A, you will have to pay either $252 per month or $458 per month in 2020 for your Part A coverage.

  • Beneficiaries who have paid Medicare taxes for between 30 and 39 quarters (between 7.5 and 10 years) will pay $252 per month for their Part A benefits.

  • Beneficiaries who paid Medicare taxes for fewer than 30 quarters (7.5 years) will pay $458 per month for Part A.

Part B comes with a standard premium that is $144.60 per month in 2020. Higher income earners may pay more for their Part B premiums because of the IRMAA (or Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount). 

Both Part A and Part B have out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, coinsurance and copayments.

Medicare acceptance

Original Medicare is accepted by the majority of health care providers in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Many health care providers may accept Medicare assignment. This means that they accept Medicare reimbursement as payment in full for their services or items.

Providers who don't accept Medicare assignment do not accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment. They reserve the right to charge up to 15 percent more than the Medicare-approved amount for their services or items.

Medicare Part A

Part A is hospital insurance and is the first half of Original Medicare. Its coverage includes inpatient hospital stays, hospice care, and skilled nursing facility care.

Generally, you must have Medicare Part A to get Medicare Parts B, C, or D.

It is premium-free for most Medicare enrollees.

More info: Medicare Part A

Medicare Part B

Part B is medical insurance and is the second half of Original Medicare. Its coverage includes outpatient hospital care, preventative care, doctors services, and other non-emergency medical care.

You must pay a monthly premium to get Part B coverage.

More info: Medicare Part B