Medicare Part A is key insurance for millions of senior Americans. Find out how you can sign up and get covered.
What is Medicare Part A?
Medicare Part A is federal insurance that pays for inpatient care at a hospital or a skilled nursing facility, as well as hospice care and home care.
Part A allows you to choose any doctor, health care provider, hospital or facility that is enrolled in Medicare and is taking new patients. Generally, you don’t need a referral to see a specialist.
Medicare Part A, along with Medicare Part B, is sometimes called Original Medicare. While Part A covers inpatient services, Part B covers outpatient doctor visits, tests and some medical supplies.
Is Medicare Part A free at age 65?
Most people get Part A without paying a premium, but that doesn’t mean you’ll pay nothing for hospital care. Part A has out-of-pocket expenses, including a deductible and coinsurance.
Deductible and coinsurance
The out-of-pocket costs per benefit period for an inpatient hospital stay under Part A are:
- $1,556 deductible
- Days 1-60: $0 coinsurance
- Days 61-90: $389 coinsurance per day
- Days 91 and beyond: $778 coinsurance per each lifetime reserve day after day 90. (You have up to 60 lifetime reserve days)
- Beyond lifetime reserve days: All costs
You can buy supplemental insurance, called Medigap, to help you pay out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Part A.
Part A Premiums
You might not qualify for premium-free Part A because you or your spouse didn’t pay enough in Medicare taxes. In that case, you can buy coverage for a monthly premium of $274 or $499 in 2022.
The cost of the premium depends on how long you or your spouse worked and paid into Medicare. If you have to pay the premium, but don’t enroll in Part A when you’re first eligible, your premium may go up 10 percent as a penalty.
When you pay a premium for Part A, you usually have to buy Part B, too.
Is everyone automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A?
You’ll be automatically enrolled when you apply for retirement or disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board. Your Part A coverage will start once your application is approved and you are eligible for Medicare.
If you’ve been getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for at least four months, you’ll automatically get Part A when you turn 65.
You won’t have to pay a premium for Part A in either scenario.
If you haven’t applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you’ll have to take specific steps to enroll in Part A.
Can I sign up for Medicare Part A but not Part B?
It depends. If you were automatically enrolled in premium-free Part A, along with Part B, you can choose to drop Part B.
But if you’re paying a premium for Part A, you usually have to purchase Part B.
How do I sign up for Part A hospital insurance?
You’ll be enrolled automatically in Part A when you apply for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, or when you turn 65, if you’ve been getting those benefits for at least four months.
If you haven’t applied for Social Security but want Medicare, you’ll have to sign up through Social Security. You can do this online at www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare or by calling 1-800-772-1213.
If you or your spouse worked for a railroad, you’ll need to call the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772 to sign up for Medicare.
When can I sign up for Part A?
There are three times during which you can sign up for Medicare Part A.
Initial Enrollment Period
You can sign up for Part A when you turn 65. You’ll have a seven-month window, starting three months before you turn 65 and ending three months after the month you turn 65. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period.
General Enrollment Period
After the end of your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for premium Part A during the General Enrollment Period between January 1 and March 31. If you don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, you might have to pay a penalty for late enrollment.
Special Enrollment Period
If you or your spouse have health insurance through an employer, you have eight months to sign up for Medicare after you stop working or lose those benefits, whichever happens first. If you don’t sign up during that time, you’ll have to wait for the General Enrollment Period.
Where can I find a primary care physician who accepts Medicare patients?
Once you have Medicare, you’ll want to find a primary care doctor near you who takes your insurance.
NewPrimaryCare.com™ can help. Our preferred provider partners practice value-based care, meaning Medicare rewards them for giving quality care and helping their patients get better.
With a value-based care doctor, you can expect quicker appointment scheduling, shorter waits at the doctor’s office and a meaningful connection with your physician.
Use our Find Your Doctor tool to search for and compare value-based care providers near you.