What is Medicare Part A and B?

Medicare Parts A and B are often referred to as Original, or Traditional, Medicare. Part A helps pay your hospital bills, and most people have paid for their Part A premiums through payroll taxes while working.

Part B pays for a portion of your doctor visits, some home health care, medical equipment, outpatient procedures, rehabilitation therapy, laboratory tests, X-rays, mental health services, ambulance services and blood, and other medical services, including screenings for heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Part B is optional, and you may want to opt out of Part B if you still have health insurance through an employer, union, your spouse, etc. Part B requires that you pay a monthly premium to Medicare (the standard rate for 2011 is $115.40), and there is a small deductible ($162 in 2011) that must be reached before Part B begins paying for services. People with higher incomes — above $85,000 annually for an individual or $170,000 for a couple — pay higher rates.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.