Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B is part of Original Medicare. It covers medically necessary care and preventative services. This includes doctor visits, outpatient care, cancer screenings, medical equipment and more. In 2020, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B was $144.60.

What Does Medicare Part B Cover?

Medicare Part B is the medical insurance component of Original Medicare.

There are two main categories for Medicare Part B coverage:
  1. Medically Necessary Services: Helps diagnose or treat a medical condition. This includes doctor visits.
  2. Preventative Care: Services and screenings to prevent illness or provide early detection.

Types of Medically Necessary Services

  • Ambulance transportation
  • Medical equipment
  • Mental health
  • Limited outpatient prescription drugs
  • Clinical research
  • Lab tests

Types of Preventative Care Services

  • Disease screenings
  • Cancer screenings
  • Diabetes self-management training
  • Glaucoma tests
  • Mental health screenings
  • Nutrition therapy services
  • One-time Welcome to Medicare preventive visit
  • Shots
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling
  • Yearly wellness visit

Annual wellness visits are a way to monitor your health and may include a cognitive impairment assessment to screen for Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Part B deductible doesn’t apply for yearly wellness visits or most preventative services.

Medicare Part B Enrollment & Eligibility

If you already receive Social Security when you turn 65, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A and B).

If not, you need to sign up with Social Security when you first become eligible. Otherwise, you may face a late enrollment penalty.

You can sign up for Medicare in about 10 minutes on the Social Security website.

Once enrolled, you don’t need to sign up again for coverage each year. However, you have an annual opportunity to review your coverage and change plans.

Open enrollment, also known as the annual election period, runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

Late Enrollment Penalty

Delaying your Medicare Part B coverage can cost you. You have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare. It begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes your birth month and extends three months after that.

If you miss this window, your monthly Plan B premium can increase 10 percent each 12-month period you go without coverage.

Did You Know?

The Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty doesn’t apply if you still receive health insurance through your employer or your spouse’s employer.

Medigap Open Enrollment

Medigap is private supplemental insurance that bridges Medicare coverage gaps. It helps cover coinsurance, deductibles and copays.

The best time to sign up for Medigap is within six months of enrolling in Part B.

During the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you are guaranteed the best price for coverage by private insurance companies — regardless of your health.

This time frame cannot be extended, changed or repeated.

If you miss this window, you may not be able to buy Medigap supplemental insurance later. Even if you can, it will cost more.

Costs of Medicare Part B

You pay a monthly premium, or fee, for Part B coverage. Your premium is automatically deducted from your benefit payment if you receive Social Security. Otherwise, you’ll receive a bill.

In 2020, the standard Part B premium amount is $144.60. Your cost may be higher if your adjusted gross income as reported on your individual IRS tax return from two years ago is above $87,000.

You must pay your Part B premium every month even if you don’t use it.

Medicare Part B Costs
  • Standard Premium: $144.60
  • Deducible: $198
  • Coinsurance: 20 percent after deductible is met

FAQs

Is it mandatory to have Medicare Part B?
No. If you receive health coverage through your current employer, or your spouse’s employer, you can remain on that plan.
Can you delay Medicare Part B enrollment?
Yes. But you should contact your employer before doing so to see how your current insurance interacts with Medicare. Your employer plan may require you to enroll in Part A and Part B in order to continue receiving full benefits.
Do I need Medicare Part B if I have veteran’s benefits?
Yes, you should enroll in Medicare. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, signing up for Medicare gives you more options, such as receiving coverage if you need to go to a non-VA hospital or doctor.
Last Modified: May 20, 2020

9 Cited Research Articles

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  4. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Medicare Part B coverage: Preventative screening services. Retrieved from https://edit.medicare.gov/coverage/preventive-screening-services
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  7. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d.). What does Part B cover? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-part-b-covers
  8. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d.). When can I buy Medigap? Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/when-can-i-buy-medigap
  9. U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Yearly wellness checks. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/yearly-wellness-visits