Medicare Part B is the medical coverage that gives you access to a variety of outpatient services. Among these are doctor’s visits, laboratory testing, advanced imaging such as MRI or CT scans, preventive care – including flu shots, colonoscopies, mammograms and more – and quite a few more financially significant services like radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, surgeries, medical equipment and prosthetics, and even dialysis for failing kidneys. Part B is optional, but your insurance coverage would not be complete without it, and you also cannot get Medigap supplemental coverage without it.
How much will I pay for Medicare Part B?
You must pay a monthly premium for your Part B benefits. The majority of Americans will pay the standard monthly amount set by the Department of Health and , which in 2013 is $104.90/month. However, you may owe more if your income is above a certain level. You can find a chart showing the costs based on your income bracket on this website. If you enroll late into Part B, you may also have to pay a penalty for life, so it’s important not to miss your enrollment window whenever you retire and lose access to your employer group health insurance.
How do I sign up for Part B?
Applying for Medicare Part B can be done online, over the phone or in person at your local Social Security office. After you apply, it will take 2 – 3 weeks before your card will arrive, so you should plan to apply several weeks prior to when you will need the coverage For more information on each of these application options, visit our Apply for Medicare page.
What is my cost sharing under Medicare Part B?
You will pay a percentage of the costs of your medically-necessary Part B services. Generally, these costs are:
- the annual Medicare Part B deductible (in 2013, this is $147)
- 20% of the remaining costs, with no limits or cap
- any excess charges that a provider or facility may charge beyond what Medicare reimburses
What is most significant about your Part B cost-sharing is the 20% that you will owe for outpatient medical care. This may not be a lot for ordinary doctor’s visits, but for higher-ticket services like surgeries or chemotherapy, your expenses can add up to thousands and thousands of dollars. However, there is really no reason for you to be subject to these expenses when there are supplemental coverage options available no matter what your budget is.
There are two main ways in which you can limit these expenses and insure yourself against catastrophic medical spending. Our site provides detailed information about both. Medicare supplements are available for purchase to cover the parts that A & B don’t. If you have limited income and need a more affordable option, Advantage plans are a great option to get your A & B benefits through a private health insurance plan at very little cost.