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What is Medicare Part A?

Also referred to as Hospital Coverage, Medicare Part A is free to people who have worked 10 years or more and paid Medicare taxes. Otherwise, you can sign up for Part A at a cost. There are premiums, copays and coinsurance costs. If you collect Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will be automatically enrolled when you turn 65.

If you were eligible for Part A for two years but did not sign up, you will have to pay the higher premium for four years. Usually, you do not have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Part A includes:

  • Hospital stays
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Home health care
  • Hospice

Generally, people receive their Medicare initial enrollment package three months before their 65th birthday. Included in the package is your red, white and blue Medicare benefits card. If you choose to accept the required Part A and the optional Part B Medical Coverage, you keep the Medicare card. If not, you return it to indicate you have declined Part B.

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