What Is Medicare Part A?

by Team eLocal
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As you near retirement, you'll likely start thinking about healthcare coverage, including the options for Medicare. With Parts A, B, C and D available, it can be confusing to figure out how Medicare works and which coverage option you need.

Here’s an overview of Medicare Part A to get you started.

What Is Medicare Part A?

Medicare Part A is the hospital coverage you automatically get when you qualify for Medicare. For most people who qualify for Medicare, Part A is a free insurance product with no premiums due. There is also an option to buy Part A coverage for people who don't qualify for the premium-free option.

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What Does It Cover?

Medicare Part A primarily covers the costs of inpatient care you receive in a hospital setting. It can also help cover other care settings for a short period of time, including:

  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Inpatient care at a nursing home
  • Hospice care
  • Home health care

Not everything that falls under these categories is covered by Medicare. You have to be admitted to the hospital based on a doctor's orders, and you have to go to a hospital that accepts Medicare.

It also doesn't cover things like private hospital rooms or separate charges for personal care items. Skilled nursing home care is limited to a short time period. You might have to pay a deductible or coinsurance for some services. Your doctor should be able to tell you if something is covered by Medicare Part A.

Who Qualifies for Medicare Part A?

Anyone 65 or older is eligible for Medicare Part A. If you're younger, you might qualify if you have a disability or end-stage renal disease. To qualify for premium-free Part A coverage, you either have to be receiving or eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement Board benefits. You can also qualify if you or a spouse previously held a Medicare-covered government job.

People under 65 can get the coverage premium-free if they've received disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months. People with end-stage renal disease who meet certain requirements also qualify for premium-free coverage.

If you can't get free coverage, you can pay either $274 or $499 in monthly premiums, depending on how long you worked and paid Medicare taxes. You can also choose to buy Part B without buying Part A if you don't qualify for premium-free coverage.

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