Medicare Part B: All Of Your Questions Answered

27 minute read| Updated for October, 2020

What is Medicare Part B?

Medicare Part B is one part of Original Medicare health insurance. It serves the specific purpose of helping cover costs related to doctor visits, lab work, and medical procedures for diagnostic purposes.

Signing up for Medicare Part B is easy, quick, and can be done when you sign up for Medicare benefits.

Part B also covers home healthcare, ambulance rides, and some chiropractic care.

What Does Medicare Part B Cover?

Medicare Part B covers up to 80% of costs for:

  • Doctor visits
  • Outpatient medical services (such as lab testing)
    • Preventive services (such as flu shots, colonoscopies, and mammograms)
  • Home healthcare
  • Ambulance rides
  • Chiropractic care
  • Radiation
  • Some surgeries
  • Diagnostic imaging 
  • Prescribed durable medical equipment
    • Drugs administered in a clinical setting (such as Osteoporosis injections, insulin used with a pump, etc.)
  • Other medically necessary services

What Does Medicare Part B Not Cover?

There are numerous health care necessities that are not covered by Medicare Part B. These include:

  • Hospital visits (these are covered under Part A)
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Hospice care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Foot care

What is the Cost of Medicare Part B?

Medicare Part B is entirely optional, but highly recommended, for those whose primary health coverage comes through Medicare. If you want to obtain Medigap coverage, or you decide on a Medicare Advantage Part C plan, you also need to sign up for Medicare Part B.

Medicare Part B comes with a monthly premium and an annual deductible.

In order to get the most cost-effective Part B premiums, it is essential for you to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period.

Medicare Part B Premiums 2020

The standard monthly premium begins at a base rate of $144.60 in 2020. People in high income brackets will pay increased premiums. If you enroll late, you will also face an increased premium penalty. 

In order to get the most cost-effective Part B premiums, it is essential for you to sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period. If you are eligible to enroll in Medicare in 2020 but wait to enroll in Part B, your monthly premium may increase by 10% each year you delay. 

Below is a graphic of the Medicare Part B premium penalty schedule. Remember that the penalty applies for your entire lifespan, so the longer you wait to sign up, the more you will pay on a permanent basis.

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
Late Fee 10% + 10% + 10% + 10% + 10%
Part B Premium $100 $110 $120 $130 $140 $150

If you do decide to delay your Medicare Part B signup, you will have to wait until the Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to March 31. This means that your benefits will not kick in until the following July. If you take this route, you will not only have a lifetime penalty to pay, but you will also be required to wait months before benefits begin.

Thus, enrolling during your Initial Enrollment Period is the only guaranteed way to ensure timely benefits and the lowest possible monthly premium payment.

Those in a high income bracket will pay higher Part B premiums based on their income level. Below is a graphic showing what you can expect to pay based on your income. The standard premium amount for 2020 is $144.60.

File individual tax return File joint tax return File married and separate tax return Monthly premium
$87,000 or less $174,000 or less $87,000 or less $144.60 (standard premium)
Above $87,000 up to $109,000 Above $174,000 up to $218,000 Not applicable $202.40
Above $109,000 up to $136,000 Above $218,000 up to $272,000 Not applicable $289.20
Above $136,000 up to $163,000 Above $272,000 up to $326,000 Not applicable $376.00
Above $163,000 and less than $500,000 Above $326,000 and less than $750,000 Above $87,000 and less than $413,000 $462.70
$500,000 or above $750,000 and above $413,000 and above $491.60

If you do decide to delay your Medicare Part B signup, you will have to wait until the Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 to March 31.

Medicare Part B Deductible

The annual deductible for Medicare Part B is $198 for 2020. It is essential to note that after your deductible, Medicare Part B only covers up to 80% of all Part B-related costs. You are responsible for the remaining 20%. There are no limits or caps on the 20% you owe.

How Do I Sign Up for Medicare Part B?

Signing up for Medicare Part B is easy, quick, and can be done when you sign up for Medicare benefits. You can also call the Social Security office and sign up over the phone or visit ssa.gov to apply.

After signing up, it can take two to three weeks for your Medicare card to arrive in the mail. For this reason, it is a good idea to apply several weeks before you need any services in order to ensure that you will not be caught without coverage.

It is important to note that if you are applying for Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) or Medigap coverage, enrollment in Medicare Part B is also required. 

Applying for Medicare

Applying for Medicare is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. After all, unexpected medical expenses can catch anyone off guard, resulting in overwhelm and financial devastation. That is why Medicare exists — to help protect you from medical expenses that would otherwise deplete your hard-earned savings. 

Protect what you have spent your life working to build by signing up for Medicare today. When you combine Part A, Part B, and Part D with Medigap or opt for Part C (Medicare Advantage), most of your medical expenses will be covered. It only takes a few minutes to protect your future.