Medicare Part B provides health insurance for millions of senior Americans. Find out how you can enroll and get covered.
What is Medicare Part B?
Medicare Part B is insurance that covers doctor visits and other outpatient services and supplies.
Part B, along with Medicare Part A, is sometimes called Original Medicare. Part A pays for inpatient treatment at hospitals, as well as skilled nursing care, hospice care and home care.
If you have Part B, you’ll pay a monthly premium, and have a yearly deductible and coinsurance costs. But you won’t have to pay for most preventative care, such as vaccines and screenings related to mental health, cancer and other health conditions.
Other services covered by Part B include clinical trials, ambulance services, mental health services, outpatient hospital services, some prescription drugs and durable medical equipment, such as a wheelchair for home use.
You can choose any doctor, health care provider, hospital or facility that is enrolled in Medicare and is taking new patients. If you want to see a specialist, you probably won’t need a referral with Part B coverage.
Are you automatically signed up for Medicare Part B?
You can enroll in Part B when you apply for retirement or disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board.
You’ll automatically get Part B when you turn 65 if you’ve been getting Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits for at least four months. You can drop this coverage when you get your Welcome to Medicare package.
If you haven’t applied for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you’ll have to take specific steps to enroll in Part B.
How do I sign up for Medicare Part B?
If you aren’t applying for retirement benefits, but still want Part B, you can sign up through Social Security 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 apply for Part B.
Can I sign up for Medicare Part B online?
Yes, most people can sign up for Part B through Social Security at www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare. This is probably the fastest way to apply for Medicare Part B. It takes about 10 minutes, there are no forms to sign and you usually don’t need documentation.
When can I sign up for Part B?
There are three time periods when you can sign up for Medicare Part B.
Initial Enrollment Period
You can sign up for Part B 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 late-enrollment penalty.
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.
How long does it take for a Medicare Part B application to be approved?
Estimates vary, but you should get your Medicare card about three weeks after you apply.
What does Medicare Part B cost?
Part B has a monthly premium, a yearly deductible and coinsurance payments.
Part B premiums
The standard Part B premium is $170.10 a month in 2022, but you’ll pay more if your annual income exceeds $91,000 (separate) or $182,000 (joint). If you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you could pay a higher premium as a penalty.
Part B deductible and coinsurance
The annual Part B deductible is $233. After meeting the deductible, typically you’ll pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services, outpatient therapy and durable medical equipment. You’ll pay nothing for home care, laboratory services and most preventative care.
If you have to pay a premium for Part A, you can choose to buy Part B by itself. But you usually have to buy Part B if you’ve purchased Part A already.
Where can I find a primary care physician who accepts Medicare patients?
Once you have Medicare Part B, you’ll want to find a primary care doctor near you who takes your insurance.
NewPrimaryCare.com™ can help. Our preferred providers practice value-based care, meaning Medicare rewards them for giving quality care and helping their patients get better. These doctors will take the time to know you and your needs.
With a value-based care provider, 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.