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Each part of Medicare has a different payment system. And within each part, patients' out-of-pocket costs will depend on the particular way they receive their benefits. However, the following basic information about premiums and copayments holds true in most cases. The figures given are for 2010.
Part A: Most people pay no premium for Medicare Part A. People who aren't automatically eligible for Part A pay a monthly premium of up to $461. Everyone with Part A pays a deductible of $1,100 for each period of hospitalization, and copayments for each day past the first 60 days of a particular hospital stay.
Part B: Every individual pays a premium of at least $96.40 a month for Part B coverage, deducted from monthly Social Security checks; this figure goes up for people with high incomes. A person must also meet an annual deductible of $155. After the deductible, Medicare pays 80 percent of the approved amount for covered doctor services, and 80 to 100 percent of the approved amount for outpatient services and medical equipment. Those who don't enroll in Part B when they turn 65 can enroll later -- but each year they put it off, the premium increases by 10 percent.
Part C: Part C Medicare Advantage private managed care health plans lump Part A and B together, offering one monthly premium and the plan's own set of copayments and deductibles. It's important to check not only premiums but also out-of-pocket costs when considering one of these plans.
Part D: Every prescription drug plan under Part D has different premiums, copayments, and coverages. In choosing a plan, be sure not to focus solely on the lowest monthly premium but also on coverage of the specific drugs needed and any copayments that might apply.
Where can I find more information about Medicare?
More detailed information about each part of Medicare is offered in the articles on this site listed below. You can also look at the federal website for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as at Benefits Checkup, an online service run by the National Council on Aging that can help you identify which government benefits your seniors qualify for and how to enroll.