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    If you’re eligible for Medicare and ready to explore your options, the first step is to get to know its four parts. Each part represents a different kind of coverage.

    Part A

    Also called hospital insurance, Medicare Part A covers the cost if you are admitted to a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or hospice. It also covers some home health services. Most people are enrolled automatically in Part A when they reach age 65.

    With Part A, you'll pay:

    • A deductible each year. This is how much you have to spend before Medicare starts to pay its part.
    • Coinsurance. This is the part of the costs for hospital care you may be required to pay after you've met your deductible. 

    If you or your spouse receives Social Security benefits you don't have to pay a monthly fee to have Part A and will be automatically enrolled.

    If you or your spouse doesn't receive Social Security benefits, either because you are still working or because you don’t qualify, you may to pay a monthly fee to have Part A. You will  need to join through your local Social Security office.

    Together, Part A and Part B are called original Medicare or traditional Medicare.

    Part B

    Also called medical insurance, Part B covers outpatient care. For instance, it pays for your visits to a doctor’s office, tests, and preventive health care like cancer screenings and vaccines.

    Part B also covers some medical supplies, like blood sugar test strips, therapeutic shoes, and more. It’s common for people to be automatically enrolled in Part B, too.

    For Medicare Part B, you pay:

    • A monthly fee.
    • A deductible, which is a set amount you pay each year before Part B starts paying for any of your care.
    • Twenty percent of the Medicare-approved amount for some types of care. These are doctor's appointments, physical therapy, diabetes supplies, durable medical equipment like commode chairs, wheelchairs, and other care. You have to meet your deductible first and then pay 20% of the services you receive.

    If you see a doctor who has not agreed to accept Medicare-approved amounts, you will pay more -- possibly up to the full cost -- for a doctor's visit and care.