- What Is It? Basic Medicare (Parts A & B) is the health coverage provided by the government. Part A is for inpatient or hospital coverage and Part B is for outpatient or doctor's office coverage.
- Who Is Eligible? To be eligible, you must be turning or have already turned 65 years old, and have paid federal taxes for at least 10 of your working years. Those under 65 may qualify if they have a disability.
When Can I Enroll? You can enroll in Basic Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period. The Initial Enrollment Period is the 7 months surrounding your 65th birthday (3 months before, the month of, and 3 months after your birthday).
If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the General Enrollment Period, which is between January 1 and March 31. Unfortunately, you have to wait until July 1 for your coverage to begin. Additionally, you could pay higher premiums when you purchase supplemental coverage from a private insurer.
If you or your spouse are currently over 65 and have health coverage through your employer, you can get Basic Medicare during the Special Enrollment Period. The Special Enrollment Period will begin once your employer-based coverage expires.
How Much Does It Cost? For Part A, or hospital care, most pay $0 if they have paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If you did not pay taxes, you could pay as much as $413 a month. When using hospital-related services, you will need to pay a deductible of $1,316 before the plan starts paying for the rest of the costs. If you are hospitalized multiple times a year, you may have to pay the deductible for each hospitalization. Also, if you are in the hospital for more than 60 days, you could face a co-pay of $329-$658 or more per day.
For Part B, or doctor's office care, most pay about $134 per month. The deductible is $183 each year. When using doctor's-office-related services, you will have to pay 20% of costs out-of-pocket.
- How to Enroll? You can apply online at ssa.gov/medicare/, on the phone at 1-800-772-1213, or visit your local Social Security office. You can learn more at medicare.gov.
- Important: Basic Medicare only pays for a fraction of your health care. Many, especially those with medical conditions, can be financially burdened by out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and coinsurance fees. Basic Medicare also does not provide outpatient prescription drug coverage. It is recommended you purchase a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan, along with a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, to protect you from mounting out-of-pocket medical expenses.