What Is Medicare Part B?

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Medicare Part B is the supplemental program to Part A. Where Medicare Part A covers most of your emergency medical care, Part B is designed to handle more of your day-to-day medical needs. Part B is an elective program that requires a monthly premium, so it's important to understand if Medicare Part B is right for you.

What Part B covers

While Part B is not a 100% cover plan, it does tend to cover most people’s needs. Therefore, Part B is one of the more commonly elected aspects of the Medicare service. Medicare Part B will typically cover

  • Hospital, doctors and home health care

  • Preventative shots

  • Screenings, labs and tests

Part A typically will not cover you for tests and lab fees. However, tests are usually needed before you can be treated for a problem. So, if you need more extensive cover, Part B is likely to be for you.

Preventative shots include flu shots once per year. The plan also includes mammograms, dialysis, limited prescription drugs, and physical therapy. If you need home care, you can claim part-time necessary help from a skilled home care worker. Also, if you end up in hospital for broken bones, physical therapy fees will be included. One pair of glasses is included in the coverage, too. So, if anything happens to your eyeglasses, you can get them repaired or replaced.

What does Medicare Part B cost and when should I enroll?

The monthly premium for Part B for 2011 is $96.40 for most individuals. There may be a slightly higher fee if you have a higher income. You also may have a slightly higher charge if you elect the premium not be withheld from your Social Security check. Expect an annual deductible of $162 per year, meaning that you will spend $162 out of your pocket before Part B kicks in.

Those people who are eligible for Part B must enroll during their general enrollment period or face potential penalties (unlike Part A, which is free for those 65 and older and offers enrollment at any time). With Part B, all eligible participants may enroll up to three months before and three months after their 65th birthdays. If you fail to enroll during this enrollment period, you'll incur a surcharge on your monthly premium for each year you failed to enroll, with a few exceptions.

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