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Question: What is Medicare Part A?

October 4, 2010

Medicare Part A is "premium-free" coverage that can take some of the pain out of costly hospital stays and related care services.

Answer: Medicare Part A is a type of hospital health insurance provided by Medicare. It helps cover stays in and services at many hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. However, Medicare Part A does not cover custodial or long-term care.

Medicare Part A is often called "premium-free Part A." If you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while employed, you typically don't have to pay monthly premiums for this coverage.

Medicare Part A: services covered

The following services are covered under Medicare Part A:

  • Hospital inpatient care: Includes stays in semi-private rooms, meals, nursing care and hospital services and supplies. Stays at a hospital or other care facility have to be at least three complete days.
  • Nursing home or skilled nursing facility: Care at a nursing home or skilled nursing facility is only covered after a minimum of a three day inpatient hospital stay for a related illness or injury.
  • Home health services: In order to receive home health services you must be homebound and coverage only includes medically-necessary part-time or intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology or a continuing need for occupational therapy. Care must be ordered by a doctor and services must be provided by a Medicare-certified home agency. Other services may include durable equipment such as walkers and oxygen.
  • Hospice care: This coverage is provided for patients with a terminal illness in which a physician has certified that there is less than six months to live. Coverage includes pain relief drugs, grief counseling and medical support.
  • Blood transfusions

Medicare Part A: Eligibility

If you are not eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A coverage, you can still buy Part A if you are over the age of 65, and you are entitled to or are enrolling in Part B coverage, and you meet the residency and citizenship requirements.

You may also buy coverage if you are under the age of 65 and are disabled, and your premium-free Part A coverage was terminated because you could not go back to work.

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