How Does Medicare Work?

Medicare is one of the largest healthcare providers in the United States and is backed by the government. Keep on reading to learn more regarding how it works.

Medicare is a U.S. federal government health protection program that sponsors healthcare services. The arrangement covers individuals aged 65 or more, younger individuals who meet certain eligibility rules, and individuals with specific diseases. Medicare is divided into various plans that cover an assortment of healthcare situations — some of which include some significant pitfalls to the protected individual. While this permits the program to offer purchasers more choices as far as expenses and coverage are concerned, it likewise introduces complexity for those looking to sign up. So how does Medicare work? Understanding Medicare and the parts that go with it may appear to be a great deal of data from the start. In any case, it only requires a little research to see how to benefit from it. It is worth the time, since Medicare offers incredible health coverage you can modify to accommodate your health needs and your budget.

How does Medicare work?

Medicare is a national healthcare program endorsed by the U.S. federal government. This program was created by Congress as part of the Social Security Act in 1965 to provide coverage to people who are 65 years old or more and do not have any health insurance. The program is now managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and provides coverage to include people with certain disabilities and those who have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. There are four different parts to Medicare, all of them give different kinds of services for the insured:

  • Medicare Part A
  • Medicare Part B
  • Medicare Part C
  • Medicare Part D

With Medicare, you get options on how you can get your coverage. Once you sign up, you will need to decide how to get your Medicare coverage. Medicare works in two major ways:

Original Medicare

Original Medicare incorporates Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance). You pay for services as you get them. At the point when you get services, you will pay a deductible toward the beginning of every year, and you typically pay 20% of the expense of the Medicare-approved service, called coinsurance. Assuming that you need drug coverage, you can add a different drug plan (Part D).

Original Medicare pays for a lot, but not all, of the expense for covered health care services and supplies. A Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) strategy can assist with paying a portion of the remaining health care costs, such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. Some Medigap policies additionally cover services that Original Medicare does not cover, such as medical care when you travel outside the U.S

Factors that have an impact Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs are as follows:

  • If you and your doctor or some other health care provider sign a private contract.
  • If you choose to get services or supplies Medicare does not provide coverage for. In case you do, you pay all the expenses unless you have other insurance that covers it.
  • If your doctor, or some other health care provider or supplier accepts assignments.
  • If you have a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy.
  • If you have Medicaid or get state help covering your Medicare costs.
  • If you have other health insurance that works with Medicare, or not.
  • If you have Part A and/or Part B. Most people have both.
  • The kind of health care you need and how often you require it.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage is an “all in one” option in contrast to Original Medicare. These “bundled” plans incorporate Part A, Part B, and often Part D. Most plans offer additional advantages that Original Medicare does not cover — like vision, hearing, dental, and more. Medicare Advantage Plans have yearly contracts with Medicare and should observe Medicare’s coverage guidelines. The plan should tell you about any changes before the beginning of the next enrollment year. Every Medicare Advantage Plan can charge various out-of-pocket expenses. They can likewise have various rules and regulations for how you get services.

Types of Medicare coverage

As mentioned above, there are four different types of Medicare programs present for individuals to have. The major providers of Basic Medicare coverage are Parts A and B — also known as Original Medicare — or through the Medicare Part C plan. People may also choose to sign up in the Medicare Part D plan.

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers costs billed by emergency clinics or similar inpatient or inpatient-like settings, like skilled nursing facilities, hospice, and some locally situated healthcare. This plan, however, does not cover long -term or custodial care. Coverage is automatic for any individual who gets Social Security benefits. For the individuals who do not get benefits, enrollment should be possible through the Social Security website.

Deductibles and coinsurance for Part A for 2021 are as follows:

  • Daily coinsurance for lifetime reserve days:$742
  • Daily coinsurance for the 61st to 90th day: $371
  • Inpatient hospital deductible: $1,484
  • Skilled nursing facility coinsurance for days 21 through 100: $185.5012

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B usually covers expenses for outpatient care like visits to the doctor. Part B also covers preventive services, ambulance services, some medical equipment, and mental health coverage. Some prescription medicines also come under this plan. The typical monthly premium for this plan for 2021 is $148.50, and the deductible is $203. Premiums are higher for anyone whose yearly income is above $88,000 ($176,000 for married couples).

Medicare Part C

These plans, otherwise called Medicare Advantage, should offer coverage that is essentially equivalent to Original Medicare (Plans A and B). Individuals buy Medicare Advantage plans through private insurance providers as opposed to through the government itself. A considerable lot of these plans offer yearly limits on out-of-pocket expenses. Numerous plans also give benefits that original Medicare patients would otherwise need to buy by means of supplemental protection, for example, a Medigap plan, and may include copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and even costs associated with travel insurance when travelling outside the United States. A few plans may likewise incorporate dental, vision, and hearing care.

Medicare Part D

Medicare offers supplemental prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D. People who are enrolled in Medicare Part A or Part B may sign up for Part D to receive subsidies for prescription drug costs that original Medicare plans do not cover.

What exactly does Medicare cover?

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A provides coverage for hospital inpatient costs when you are formally admitted to a hospital with a doctor’s order. It provides benefits for services like:

  • blood transfusions
  • hospice care
  • lab tests
  • some home healthcare services
  • surgery
  • walkers and wheelchairs

Part A also provides restricted coverage for skilled nursing facilities if you have an eligible inpatient hospital stay — three consecutive days resulting from a formal inpatient admission order written by your doctor.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B provides coverage for your doctor’s services and preventive healthcare, such as annual visits to the doctor and tests. People often enroll in both parts A and B together to get the maximum amount of coverage. For instance, if you stay in a hospital, it would be covered under Medicare Part A and the doctor’s services would be covered under Part B.

Part B provides coverage for a huge range of tests and services, such as:

  • ambulance and emergency department services
  • diabetes supplies
  • influenza and hepatitis vaccinations
  • medical equipment
  • screening for cancer, depression, and diabetes

Medicare Part C

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is an insurance option that is sold privately, and includes the same coverage as parts A and B, along with additional benefits like prescription drug plans, dental, hearing, vision, and others. In order to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, you must first  be signed up in Original Medicare.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is the plan that provides coverage for prescription drugs that are not covered by Part B. These are usually the type of drugs that need to be administered by a doctor, for instance, an infusion or injection. This plan is optional, however, many people decide to have it so their medications are covered.

Medicare Eligibility

Eligibility relies upon specific rules. Any individual who has legally lived in the United States for at least five years and is 65 years old or more, is eligible for Medicare coverage. Enrollment in the two Parts A and B is automatic for any individual who gets Social Security benefits. Part D coverage is discretionary and enrollment should be completed by the person.

Individuals under the age of 65 may be eligible if they get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The individuals who get SSDI usually need to wait for two years after they get their first check before they become qualified for Medicare. However, the program defers this necessity for anybody with ALS or with permanent kidney failure. Enrollment should be possible through the Social Security Administration (SSA) website.

Note that anybody with ALS automatically fits the bill for Medicare, regardless of their age. Premiums for Medicare Part A are free if an insured individual or their spouse contributed to Medicare for at least 10 years through their payroll taxes. You are liable for paying premiums for other parts  of the Medicare program.

The program is subsidized through various sources. U.S. tax payers add to the program through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), which goes toward Social Security and Medicare deductions. As of 2021, employees contribute a total of 7.65% of their paychecks to these programs — 6.2% to Social Security and 1.45% to Medicare. Employers additionally pay a similar rate in the interest of every employee.

How does Medicare work with other insurance?

If you have Medicare or other health insurance coverage, each type of coverage is known as a “payer.” You may have other insurance besides Medicare, for example:

  • Employer group coverage
  • Medicaid
  • Retirement benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Workers’ compensation

When there is more than one payer, “coordination of benefits” rules find out which one pays first. The “primary payer” first pays what it owes on your bills, and then sends the rest to the “secondary payer” (supplemental payer) to pay. In some rare situations, there may also be a third payer.

According to the official Medicare website, here is what it means to pay primary/secondary (The information has been take directly from the official website):

  • The insurance that pays first (primary payer) pays up to the limits of its coverage.
  • The one that pays second (secondary payer) only pays if there are costs the primary insurer didn’t cover.
  • The secondary payer (which may be Medicare) may not pay all the uncovered costs.
  • If your employer insurance is the secondary payer, you may need to enroll in Medicare Part B before your insurance will pay.
  • If the insurance company doesn’t pay the claim promptly (usually within 120 days), your doctor or other provider may bill Medicare. Medicare may make a conditional payment to pay the bill, and then later recover any payments the primary payer should’ve made.

In case you are still working when you are qualified for Medicare and have group coverage through your work, you might need to consider postponing Medicare Part B (since it comes with a monthly premium). Medicare Part A is generally free in the event that you have worked for at least 10 years (40 quarters) and have paid Medicare taxes; otherwise, you may owe a premium for Part A, and might need to think about waiting to enroll if you have coverage sponsored by your employer. You can pursue Medicare Part A as well as Part B later through a Special Enrollment Period without suffering a late-enrollment penalty once you quit working or that coverage ends.

Get in touch with your benefits administrator for more data on how your insurance functions with Medicare. Never drop your coverage without first completely understanding the outcomes; you will most likely be unable to get it back. On the off chance that you have inquiries regarding who pays first, or if your coverage changes, call the Benefits Coordination and Recovery Center (BCRC) at 1-855-798-2627 (TTY: 1-855-797-2627). Tell your primary care physician and other health care provider about any changes in your insurance or coverage when you get care.

How does Medicare work when you turn 65?

In general, all people who are 65 years old or more, and have been legal residents of the United States for at least five years, are qualified for Medicare. Before your 65th birthday is the time to start thinking about Medicare. Your Medicare enrollment steps will differ based on whether or not you are receiving retirement benefits when you enter your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

  • If you are getting Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you should be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.
  • If you are not getting Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare.

In case you are qualified for automatic enrollment, you ought not need to contact anybody. You will get a package via mail, three months before your coverage begins with your new Medicare card. There will likewise be a letter clarifying how Medicare functions and that you were automatically enrolled in both Parts A and B. In the event that you get Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Social Security Administration (SSA). In the event that you get Railroad Retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

Usually, you ought not turn down Part B except if you have insurance dependent on your or your spouse’s present work (work-based insurance). In the event that you do not have work-based insurance and you turn down Part B, you may incur a premium penalty in the event that you need to sign up for Medicare coverage later on. Likewise, if your work-based insurance will pay secondary after you become qualified for Medicare, you ought to consider trying out Medicare to have primary coverage and save money on your care.

If you are 65 years old, but are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare. You can follow the steps below in order to actively enroll in Medicare.

If you are qualified for Medicare when you turn 65, you can enroll during the 7-month period that:

  • Starts 3 months before the month you turn 65
  • Includes the month you turn 65
  • Finishes 3 months after the month you turn 65

If you choose to sign up for Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Parts A and/or B by:

  • Visiting your local Social Security office
  • Calling Social Security at 800-772-1213
  • Mailing a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare
  • Applying online at

If you are qualified for Railroad Retirement benefits, sign up for Medicare by calling the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) or getting in touch with your local RRB field office. Keep proof of when you tried to enroll in Medicare, to protect yourself from incurring a Part B premium penalty if your application is lost.

  • If you sign up at your local Social Security office, ask for a written receipt.
  • If you sign up online, print out and save your confirmation page.
  • If you sign up via the mail, use certified mail and request a return receipt.
  • Jot down the names of any representatives you speak to, along with the time and date of the conversation.

How does Medicare work for disabled?

Medicare is accessible for specific individuals with disabilities who are under the age of 65. These individuals probably got Social Security Disability benefits for two years or have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, otherwise called Lou Gehrig’s sickness). There is a five month long period after a beneficiary is resolved to be disabled before a beneficiary starts to gather Social Security Disability benefits. Individuals with ESRD and ALS, in contrast with people with different reasons for disability, do not need to gather benefits for two years to be qualified for Medicare.

The requirements for Medicare eligibility for people with ESRD and ALS are:

  • ESRD – Generally 3 months after a course of regular dialysis begins or after a kidney transplant
  • ALS – Immediately upon collecting Social Security Disability benefits.

Individuals who meet all the standards for Social Security Disability are usually automatically enrolled in Parts A and B. Individuals who meet the guidelines, but do not fit the bill for Social Security benefits, can buy Medicare by paying a monthly Part A premium, along with the monthly Part B premium. Individuals who fit the bill for Social Security Disability advantages ought to get a Medicare card via mail when the necessary time-frame has elapsed. On the off chance that this does not occur or other questions emerge, get in touch with the local Social Security office.

Medicare coverage is something very similar for individuals who qualify based on disability with respect to the individuals who qualify based on age. For the individuals who are qualified, the full scope of Medicare benefits are accessible. Coverage incorporates certain hospital, nursing home, home health, doctor, and community-based services. The health care services do not need to be identified with the person’s disability in order to be covered.

Individuals with dementia, mental illness, and other long-term and persistent conditions can get coverage. There are no illnesses or basic conditions that exclude individuals for Medicare coverage. Recipients are qualified for an individualized assessment of whether they meet coverage standards. Despite the fact that there are rules that should be met to acquire coverage for specific sorts of care, Medicare ought not be denied based on the individual’s underlying condition, diagnosis, or other “general guidelines.” For instance:

  • Beneficiaries should not be denied coverage simply because their underlying condition is not showing signs of improvement.
  • Beneficiaries should not be denied coverage simply because they will need health care for a long time.

Do you have to pay for Medicare?

Mentioned below are basic expenses for people with Medicare. If you want to see and compare costs for certain health care plans, you can go to the Medicare Plan Finder.on the official Medicare website (  For specific cost information (like whether you have reached your deductible, the amount you will pay for an item or service you received, or the status of a  claim), log into your secure Medicare account.

Part A premium

Most people do not pay a monthly premium for Part A (often known as  “premium-free Part A”). If you purchase Part A, you will pay up to $471 each month in 2021. If you paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters, the typical Part A premium for you would be $471. If you paid Medicare taxes for 30-39 quarters, the typical Part A premium for you would be $259.

Part A hospital inpatient deductible and coinsurance

You pay:

  • $1,484 deductible for every benefit period
  • Days 1 to 60: $0 coinsurance for every benefit period
  • Days 61 to 90: $371 coinsurance per day of every benefit period
  • Days 91 and beyond: $742 coinsurance per each “lifetime reserve day” after day 90 for each benefit period (up to 60 days over your lifetime)
  • Beyond lifetime reserve days: all costs

Part B premium

The standard Part B premium amount is $148.50 (or more, based on your salary).

Part B deductible and coinsurance

The amount you would have to pay for Part B is $203. After you have reached your deductible, you usually pay 20% of the Medicare-Approved Amount for most doctor services (including many doctor services while you are a hospital inpatient), outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment (dme). In Original Medicare, the Medicare-Approved Amount is the sum that a doctor or provider that accepts assignment can be paid. Moreover, it could be less than the actual amount a doctor or supplier charges. Medicare pays part of this amount and you are responsible to pay the difference.

 Part C premium

The Part C monthly  premium varies from one plan to another. Make sure to compare costs for specific Part C plans.

Part D premium

The Part D monthly premium changes from one plan to another (higher-income consumers may pay more). Make sure to compare costs for specific Part D plans.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

Both Medicare and Medicaid are government-endorsed health insurance programs, however there are diverse eligibility necessities for each one. While Medicare is intended for those who are 65 years old or more, and younger individuals with certain health conditions, Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage to individuals with low incomes. Beneficiaries are needed by their state to have a restricted amount of liquid assets. Anybody with Medicaid coverage is qualified to get various services like doctor and nursing services, x-rays, hospitalization, home health care, and lab and x-ray services. A few states may likewise expand patients’ prescription drug coverage, physical treatment, dental services, and clinical transportation.


Before settling on the best Medicare coverage for yourself, make sure to visit the website and use it to go through the points covered in this article. Shop around utilizing the Medicare Plan Finder. This helpful tool will allow you to specify your health circumstance, including up to 25 drugs you take. Then it will show plans, with costs, available to you in your region. When online, you may go over numerous non-Medicare information sites. Keep in mind that they could be biased for a supporting healthcare provider. Remember to audit your full complement of Medicare coverage each year to ensure that the plan is still the best for you.

John Otero

John Otero

John Otero is an industry practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. He has held various senior management roles both in the insurance companies and insurance brokers during this span of time. He began his insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. He got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how he fell in love with the industry. He saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. John has diverse experience in corporate & consumer insurance services, across a range of vocations. His specialties include Major Corporate risk management and insurance programs, and Financial Lines He has been instrumental in making his firm as one of the leading organizations in the country in generating sustainable rapid growth of the company while maintaining service excellence to clients.

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