Introduction to Medicare: Part B

This is a brief 5-Part Simple Series to provide an Introduction to Medicare. After the initial introduction, each post will provide a description and information about one Part of Medicare including important deadlines, eligible applicants and other critical features.

What Does Medicare Part B Cover?

Medicare Part B helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services.

Am I Eligible for Medicare Part B?

If you are eligible for Medicare Part A at no cost, you can also enroll in Medicare Part B by paying a monthly premium. Some people with higher incomes will pay a higher monthly Part B premium. If you’re not eligible for Part A at no cost, you can buy Part B, without having to buy Part A, if you’re age 65 or older and you’re:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • A lawfully admitted non-citizen, who has lived in the United States for at least five years.

How Much Does It Cost?

You pay a Part B premium each month. For 2017, see the table below to determine your Part B cost.

If you’re in 1 of these 5 groups here’s what you’ll pay in 2017:

If your yearly income in 2015 was You pay (in 2017)
File individual tax return File joint tax return File married & separate tax return
$85,000 of less $170,000 or less $85,000 or less $134
Above $85,000 up to $107,000 Above $170,000 up to $214,000 N/A $187.50
Above $107,000 up to $160,000 Above $214,000 up to $320,000 N/A $267.90
Above $160,000 up to $214,000 Above $320,000 up to $428,000 Above $85,000 up to $129,000 $348.30
Above $214,000 Above $428,000 Above $129,000 $428.60

What Are Critical Enrollment Deadlines for Medicare Part B?

When you first become eligible for Medicare Part A (link to previous post), you have a seven-month period (your initial enrollment period) in which to sign up for Part B.  If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. If you’re eligible for Medicare based on disability or permanent kidney failure, your initial enrollment period depends on the date your disability or when treatment began.

If you receive Social Security benefits or railroad retirement checks, you may be automatically enrolled in Part B. However, you can choose to turn it down since you will have to pay a premium for part B. If you’re not already getting benefits, you should contact Social Security about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. You can sign up for Medicare even if you don’t plan to retire at age 65. If you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible for it, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage.

When Will My Coverage Start?

If you accept the automatic enrollment in Medicare Part B, or if you enroll during the first three months of your initial enrollment period, your coverage will start with the month you’re first eligible. If you enroll during the last four months, your coverage will start from one to three months after you enroll.

For more information about Senior Patient Advocates or to learn about Medicare Part B or other components visit Senior Patient Advocates’ website, sign up for upcoming Medicare course curriculum, or call (307) 472-1770.

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