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Question: What is Medicare Part B?

October 6, 2010

Medicare Part B can provide coverage for medically-necessary services. Learn more about this health insurance and whether you qualify.

Answer: Medicare Part B is health insurance through Medicare that helps to cover the cost of necessary health care services such as visits to your physician, outpatient care and screening and some preventative services.

Medicare Part B: Covered Services

  • Examples of some of the expenses covered by Medicare Part B include:
  • Emergency ambulance ground transportation
  • Durable medical equipment such as scooters, canes and oxygen supplies
  • Medical screenings, tests and supplies for conditions including diabetes
  • Cancer treatments
  • Non-emergency urgent care
  • Smoking cessation programs

Medicare Part B: Costs

While Medicare Part A usually provides coverage for hospitalization and other medically-necessary services at no cost, most recipients of Medicare Part B pay a standard premium for coverage. However, if your income is above a certain level, you may have to pay more for Medicare Part B coverage.

Some medical services are provided without additional cost under Medicare Part B, but you may have to pay for the cost of visiting your physician. In addition, a deductible may apply to certain services. If this is the case, you are financially responsible for all costs until you meet the annual deductible before Medicare Part B coverage kicks in. Once your deductible has been met, you are responsible for a 20 percent co-payment on the Medicare approved amount for a given service.

However, should you opt to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, such as a supplemental Medigap policy, your costs may be different.

Medicare Part B: Eligibility

To be eligible for Medicare Part B, you must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Be 65 years of age or older and receive benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board
  • Be younger than 65 years of age but disabled and receiving Social Security Disability benefits
  • Have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Disease

The government automatically enrolls individuals in Medicare Part B supplemental health insurance when they begin their Medicare Part A benefits. However, you can opt out of Medicare Part B by returning the Part B medical card when it is mailed to you and following the opt-out instructions.

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