Medicare Annual Enrollment is Happening Now! Everything You Need to Know

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What You Need To Know About Medicare Part B

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Medicare certainly plays a starring role in our older adult years! Medicare Part B enrollment can go hand in hand with major life changes like retirement, housing, and a reduction in finances. If you or your loved one is preparing to enroll in Medicare Part B, know that signing up doesn’t have to be complicated if you’re armed with the right information and resources. This guide will fill you in on the sign-up process, provide the latest costs, and go over what Medicare Part B covers (and what it doesn’t). Let’s get started! Medicare Anyone who is eligible for Medicare Part A can enroll in Medicare Part B. In most circumstances, you are enrolled in Medicare Part A when you reach age 65 and enroll in Part B at the same time. If you’re still planning for retirement, though, you may wait to enroll in Medicare Part B when you are no longer going to be covered by employer insurance. Keep a close eye on your open enrollment dates, as there is a penalty for late enrollment in Part B!

2022 Medicare Plans Are Changing

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If this is the year you or a loved one turns 65, a 2021 Medicare & You handbook will arrive by mail. This is the official Medicare handbook sent annually in September to every Medicare household, right before the October annual enrollment period. This handbook summarizes your benefits and rights under Medicare, identifies the changes that will take place in January of the next year, and provides official definitions for many terms that you will need to understand. The following information is applicable to most Medicare enrollees. However, there are special circumstances that affect how and when Medicare begins for a recipient, such as if you are under 65 with a disability for at least 24 months, suffer from ALS, or receive Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.1 Original Medicare consists of two parts:
  • Part A (Hospital Insurance)
  • Part B (Medical Insurance)

What Is Medicare Part B, and What Does It Cover?

Medicare Part B helps cover medically necessary physician services. This would include your primary care doctor and most specialists’ office visits. Outpatient care, mental health services, home health services, durable medical equipment (DME), and many preventive services are covered under Part B.2 Part B also covers:
  • Screening mammograms to check for breast cancer
  • Comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation (when certain conditions are met)
  • Colorectal cancer screenings
  • Diabetes screening (if your doctor determines a risk)
  • Chemotherapy
  • CPAP
  • Advance care planning
  • Chronic care management services
Part B does not cover:
  • Eye exams related to prescription glasses or contacts
  • Dentures or dental care
  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Long-term care
  • Prescription medications
  • Routine podiatry care
  • Massage therapy
  • Routine physical exams

Pro Tip: Don’t miss out on your hard-earned benefits! Our Medicare enrollment guide is a one-stop shop for all of your Medicare questions.

What Is the Cost of Medicare Part B?

Medicare Part B recipients must pay a standard monthly premium, meet their annual deductible, and pay a coinsurance for services rendered.3

Medicare Part B Costs for 2021

Expense type Out-of-pocket cost Additional details
Monthly premium The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium for 2021 is $148.50. If you receive Social Security or RRB benefits, your premium will be automatically deducted.
Annual deductible The standard Medicare Part B annual deductible for 2021 is $203. You must pay your annual deductible before Original Medicare Part B begins to pay for services.
Coinsurance Part B enrollees pay approximately 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for all Part B services (after the annual deductible has been met). Coinsurance, also known as cost sharing, is your required “share” of the cost for services.
Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) If your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount, you may pay an IRMAA in addition to your regular premium. Medicare uses the modified adjusted gross income reported on your IRS tax return from two years ago.

Medicare Part B Cost Example

You might be wondering, “How much exactly will I pay out of pocket when I visit the doctor?” The actual dollar amount of a service Medicare Part B will cover depends on whether your physician accepts the assignment. This means your doctor/provider agrees to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for the service they render. Sometimes, this is referred to as participating in or with Medicare. A non-participating provider may require you to pay the entire charge for a service at the time you receive it; they can also charge you more than the Medicare-approved amount. If your doctor has an agreement with Medicare to pay the Medicare-approved amount for the service, you will not be billed any more than the deductible and coinsurance. For example, let’s say you visit your Medicare-approved physician for an outpatient cardiovascular appointment on Jan. 12. This appointment falls under your Medicare Part B insurance, and the visit is $200. This was your first medical appointment of the year, so you have not yet paid your annual Medicare Part B deductible. You are responsible for the 2021 deductible of $203 before Medicare begins paying for services. For your $200 doctor visit on Jan. 12, Medicare pays $160. You are responsible for 20 percent of the total visit, so you will pay $40. In total, you will pay $243. This covers your 2021 deductible and 20 percent doctor visit. When you return for a follow-up visit in two weeks, you will only be responsible for the 20 percent coinsurance, since your deductible has already been paid. Medicare regularly sends you a Medicare Summary Notice for Part B (Medical Insurance), which notifies you of claims processed, how much of your deductible you have already paid, what services Medicare was billed on your behalf, what they paid, and the amount you are required to pay.

2022 Medicare Plans Are Changing

Make sure your plan still has all of your needs covered and learn about new benefits.
Call to Learn More

Medicare Part B Enrollment

You can apply for Medicare Part B using one of the following methods.

Online

The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages your Medicare application and enrollment.

Inside tip: Follow our step-by-step My Social Security guide to set up your secure account.

By Phone

SSA customer service specialists are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To speak with someone:
  • Call the SSA’s toll-free number at 800-772-1213.
  • If you have hearing loss, call the toll-free TTY number at 800-325-0778.

2022 Medicare Plans Are Changing

Make sure your plan still has all of your needs covered and learn about new benefits.
Call to Learn More

Things to Consider When Enrolling in Medicare Part B

As you prepare for Medicare enrollment, it’s important to think about the big picture. Take time to consider these four key questions:
  • Do your current physicians accept Medicare? If they don’t, are there other medical professionals in the area who provide similar coverage?
  • Do you plan to sign up for supplemental coverage for prescription, vision, and dental needs?
  • How will you budget for the Medicare Part B annual deductible, monthly premiums, and copayments?
  • Do you need assistance paying for Medicare? Our Medicare saving programs guide explains how to get help.

From the experts: Wondering how to fill in the potentially costly gaps that Medicare Part B doesn’t cover? Our comprehensive guide to Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) and review of the best Medigap plans have the answers!

Written By

Maureen Stanley

Writer & Editor

Maureen joined SeniorLiving.org with more than 10 years of experience writing in health, lifestyle, and nutrition for premium brands like General Mills, Westinghouse, and Bristol Myers Squibb. Her passion for empowering older adults is evident in coverage of topics like retirement, health… Learn More About Maureen Stanley

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Citations
  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2021). Who is eligible for Medicare?

  2. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2021). Medicare & You 2022.

  3. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2021). Medicare costs at a glance.