Purchasing Medicare Part A Coverage
Explore choices, costs, and more surrounding the Part A coverage.
Should I Purchase Medicare Part A?
Medicare Part A covers services such as inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, home health care, and hospice care.
For the majority of individuals that enrollee in Medicare, their Part A coverage will be provided premium-free.
Qualifying for premium-free Part A is typically achieved by paying 40 quarters (i.e. 10 years) of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes through employment. In this way you have already covered your Part A premiums by paying into the system.
Even if you have not personally paid the required 40 quarters in payroll tax, you may still qualify for premium-free Part A if your spouse has paid this amount and is at least 62 years old.
If this doesn’t apply to you, there are still several options you can explore. Even without qualifying for premium-free Part A, you still have the option to purchase Part A coverage. In this case, however, there is a monthly premium that will apply to your coverage.
Additionally, as you consider your healthcare needs, note that you are still likely eligible for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) and Medicare Part D (prescription drug).
Neither Part B nor Part D has qualifications tied to how long you’ve worked, as all enrollees pay a monthly premium for both coverage options regardless.
Do I Need to Purchase Medicare Part B if I Purchase Part A?
This is an important point to note.
If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A and are considering purchasing coverage, know that you will also need to purchase Medicare Part B, as well. Medicare Part A cannot be purchased on its own.
So, keep in mind that you will then be paying two monthly premiums for your Medicare coverage, the Part A premium and the Part B premium.
In this case you must pay two monthly premiums, because unlike with Medicare Part A, every individual that enrolls in Medicare Part B coverage must pay a monthly premium.
The amount of the monthly premium varies, however, depending on your reported annual income.
Do I Need to Purchase Medicare Part A?
There is no requirement that you enroll in Medicare once you become eligible to do so. If you have other health insurance coverage, you may determine that you do not need the coverage offered by Original Medicare.
However, if you do foresee yourself wanting or needing Medicare Part A in the future, it is best to enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period.
Remember, the vast majority of enrollees qualify for premium-free Part A. And for those that do not, purchasing Part A during this time will allow you to avoid late enrollment penalties that increase the cost of your monthly premium.
Note that even without enrolling in Part A you have other Medicare coverage options available to you. For example, unlike with Part A, Medicare Part B can be purchased on its own (i.e. without also having to purchase Part A).
Additionally, Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can be purchased if you have just Part B (or just Part A).
However, if you are interested in adding a Medicare supplement (Medigap) or purchasing a Medicare Advantage plan, you must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.
As you weigh costs and consider what coverage you require or would like to have, read over our comprehensive guide on what Original Medicare covers. This can help you get a fuller picture of the coverage provided by Medicare Part A and Part B.
What Is the Medicare Part A Monthly Premium Amount?
If you are an individual that does not qualify for premium-free Part A, you will be required to pay a monthly premium for your Part A coverage. The exact amount you must pay will depend on two factors:
The number of quarters you have paid FICA tax.
When you purchase your Part A coverage.
If you, or your spouse, have paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters or more (i.e. 10 years), you will qualify for premium-free Part A coverage.
Medicare taxes are part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax, otherwise known as FICA tax. FICA tax, which includes Medicare tax and Social Security tax, is withheld from your wages.
However, if you are an individual that has not paid the full 40 quarters of FICA taxes, you will have to pay a monthly premium for your Part A coverage.
For those that have only paid Medicare taxes for 30 – 39 quarters (i.e. between 7.5 and 9.75 years), the standard Part A monthly premium is $252.
And for those individuals purchasing Medicare Part A that have paid Medicare taxes for less than 30 quarters (i.e. 7.5 years), the standard Part A monthly premium is $458.
You can check the current Part A premium amount here.
How to Check Your Medicare Part A Eligibility & Premium
In addition to the criteria mentioned above, you can check your eligibility for Medicare and get an estimate of what your premium will be through use of Medicare’s Eligibility & Premium Calculator.
The calculator is free to use and the questions should take less than a minute to answer.
Once completed, the calculator can provide your eligibility status and an estimation of what your monthly premium will cost.
Even if you know you are not currently eligible for Medicare, by entering your information, the calculator can give you exact dates for your upcoming Initial Enrollment Period.
How to Enroll in Medicare Part A
To enroll in Medicare, you must sign up through Social Security.
There are three options for signing up:
Sign up online at the Social Security website.
Phone call: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778).
Local Office Visit: Find your local office using the Social Security Office Locator. It is best to first call and make an appointment before visiting.
Up Next: Comprehensive Guide to Medicare Part A