Medicare is a health insurance program that guarantees health insurance to Americans who are age 65 and over and who have paid taxes into the system, as well as to those who are under age 65 who have qualifying disabilities and end state renal disease. Medicare is administered by the U.S. federal government.
The program has four primary parts. Medicare Part A covers hospitalization expenses, Part B covers doctors services, Part C provides managed care type services, and Part D covers prescription drug coverage.
What Does Medicare Part A Cover?
Medicare Part A is hospitalization coverage that pays certain expenses for inpatient hospital stays. This part of Medicare will also pay some costs for care that is received in a skilled nursing facility, as well as for some home health care and hospice care.
How Much Does Medicare Part A Cost?
In most cases, you will not pay a premium for Medicare Part A. This is because you (and / or your spouse) have likely paid Medicare taxes while you were working. That is why this part of Medicare is oftentimes referred to as “premium free Medicare Part A.”
You are able to receive Medicare Part A without paying a premium if you are age 65 and:
You are receiving retirement benefits from Social Security or from the Railroad Retirement Board (or you are eligible to receive benefits, but have not yet filed for them)
You or your spouse had worked for a Medicare-covered employer
If you are under age 65, you will be eligible to receive Medicare Part A without paying a premium if you:
Have been receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for 24 months
Have End Stage Renal Disease and you meet certain other requirements
For those who have not paid taxes into the system and have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A, the monthly premium for Part A in 2014 is $426.
Who Qualifies for Medicare Part A?
You will automatically qualify for Medicare Part A benefits if you are already receiving retirement benefits from Social Security. Likewise, you will also automatically qualify if you are receiving retirement benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board.
If this is the case, you will start receiving your Medicare Part A benefits on the first day of the month in which you turn age 65. If, however, your birthday falls on the first day of the month, your Medicare Part A benefits will begin on the first day of the previous month.
If you are disabled and you are under age 65, and you qualify for Medicare Part A benefits, your benefits will begin after you have started receiving disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months, or after you’ve received certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months.
How Do You Apply for Medicare Part A?
In certain cases, an individual may be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. If you are not automatically enrolled, you will need to apply for Part A of Medicare in the following situations:
If you are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement Board retirement benefits (likely because you are still actively at work)
You have End Stage Renal Disease
In order to apply for Medicare Part A benefits, you should contact the Social Security Administration approximately three months prior to your 65th birthday. You can also apply for Medicare Part A by visiting the Social Security website. If you worked for a railroad and need to apply for Medicare Part A benefits, you should contact the Railroad Retirement Board directly.
If you have End Stage Renal Disease and need to apply for Medicare Part A benefits, you should contact the Social Security Administration for additional information on how to obtain your benefits.