By Amanda McWilliams
Medicare went into effect 48 years ago on July 1, 1966. Earlier that
same year, Medicare workers went door to door trying to get seniors to
sign up. Medicare was not the cornerstone then that it is today and
people did not know whether it was going to work for the long haul.
Now, nearly half a century later, Medicare remains one of the most
popular government programs in the nation.
We can’t see the future, but one thing’s for sure: Medicare is here to
stay. Medicare provides health insurance to more than 50 million
Americans. Forty-two million are people age 65 and older and the other
8 million are younger and have disabilities.
Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65.
The four parts of Medicare are parts A, B, C, and D.
—Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover inpatient hospital care,
skilled nursing care, hospice care, and home health care. Most people
get Medicare Part A premium-free since it is earned by working and
paying Social Security taxes.
—Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover services from doctors and
other outpatient health care providers, outpatient care, home health
care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services. Most
people pay a monthly premium for Part B. In 2014, the premium for most
people is $104.90, the same as it was in 2013. Some high-income
individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Medicare Part B
premium also can be higher if you do not enroll when you are first
eligible, also known as your initial enrollment period. There also is
a Medicare Part B deductible of $147 in 2014.
—Part C (Medicare Advantage) allows you to choose to receive all of
your health care services through a provider organization. This plan
includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B,
usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, and may include
extra benefits and services at an extra cost. You must have Part A and
Part B to enroll in Part C. Monthly premiums vary depending on your
state, private insurer, and whether you select a health maintenance
organization or a preferred provider organization.
—Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of
prescription drugs. Many people pay a premium for Part D. However,
people with low income and resources may qualify for extra help from
Social Security to pay the premium and deductible. To see if you
qualify for extra help visit www.socialsecurity.gov/
Will you be age 65 soon? Even if you decide not to retire, you should
consider applying for Medicare. You can apply in less than 10 minutes
using our online Medicare application. Do it today at
To learn more about applying for Medicare when you plan to delay
retirement, read our publication Applying For Medicare Only — Before
You Decide, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.