There is a common misunderstanding that Medicare is free, but is Medicare really free? This is one of the first questions many folks ask about Medicare. While some Medicare plans are premium-free, others require you to pay copays, coinsurances, deductibles, and monthly premiums. Ultimately, what you’ll end up paying for Medicare coverage will depend on the plan you have and the health services you need. Click here to learn what is Medicare.

So then is there any portion of Medicare that is usually free? Yes. Medicare Part A.

Is Medicare Part A Free at Age 65?

Yes, generally speaking, Medicare Part A is premium-free for people who are 65 and older. Meaning, you do not have to pay a monthly fee (premium) to maintain Medicare Part A coverage. However, there’s one other requirement that you need to satisfy in order to qualify. Either you or your spouse must have also paid Medicare taxes for at least 40 quarters or roughly 10 years. If you’ve done this, then you’ll have premium-free access to Medicare Part A. 

You can also qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A coverage without meeting the age requirement. To do so, you need to satisfy one of the following two conditions:

  • You are under 65, but have a disability or medical condition that qualifies you for free Medicare Part A coverage, such as end-stage renal disease.
  • You or your spouse receive retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board

If you do not meet these qualifications, you can still get access to Medicare Part A. However, you will need to pay a monthly premium to get it. As of 2020, this will either be $252 per month or $458 per month based on the number of quarters that you’ve paid Medicare taxes.

Is It Mandatory to Sign Up for Medicare at Age 65?

Although many older adults rush to sign up for Medicare once they turn 65, you don’t have to do so. If you’re still working and have coverage through your employer, then you don’t have to sacrifice that. Instead, you’re free to wait until you retire to sign up for Medicare. This may be a good option for older adults who are especially happy with their employer’s health insurance coverage. 

Now if you do not have health coverage from an employer, and you meet the above requirements, then enrolling into Medicare probably makes sense. The one thing to keep in mind is that Medicare Part A is usually not going to be enough health coverage. Medicare Part A only covers hospital and in-patient services. For doctor visits and out-patient services, you will need Medicare Part B. There is a difference between Medicare Part and Part B.

Can I Get Medicare Part B for Free?

Unfortunately, no, you cannot get Medicare Part B for free. Medicare Part B is meant to cover doctors’ visits and the costs associated with them. If you sign up for this coverage, then you will have to pay a monthly premium for it. The exact dollar amount of the premium can vary from year to year and based on your income. The standard amount is currently set at $144.60 monthly. It’s also important to keep in mind that Medicare Part B has deductibles and coinsurance costs that you need to account for. The current deductible is $198 and coinsurance costs are currently set at 20%.

Do I Have to Apply for Medicare Part B?

Some people get Medicare Part B automatically while others have to sign up for it. Generally speaking, if you’re 65 and retired, then you’ll automatically receive Medicare Part B coverage. If you’re not (and you don’t meet another qualifying condition), then you’ll need to sign up for Medicare Part B.

To do this, you need to apply online with Social Security. They will ask you to provide them with some personal information and will then use that information to make a decision about your eligibility for Medicare Part B. If you’d like some guidance with this process, then consider reaching out to a partnered licensed agent through Time for 65 for assistance. Simply fill out this form or give us a call.