It may be easier to think of Medicare Part A as hospital insurance. It covers inpatient care in multiple facilities including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice stays, mental health locations, nursing homes and your home. Part A also covers inpatient services, like laboratory tests and surgery.
This Medicare health plan is free for most people. You and your employers pay into the program through your income tax. You may have noticed the Medicare tax deduction — or FICA — on your paystubs.
As long as you paid into the program for at least 10 years, you can enroll in the program for free. However, if you did not pay the tax for that long, you will need to pay a monthly fee called a premium.
Your Part A premium amount will depend on how many quarters (3 months periods) you did pay. As of 2023, you will need to pay $278 monthly if you paid Medicare taxes for 30 to 39 quarters.
If you paid taxes for fewer than 30 quarters, Medicare will charge you $506 each month.
Regardless of how many quarters you paid, you may qualify for Part A at 65 years of age. You have 7 months to sign up for coverage. This period starts 3 months before your 65th birthday month. So, if your birthday is April 15th, your initial enrollment period is January 1st to July 31st.
You may need to pay a penalty if you have a premium and miss your initial enrollment period. This late penalty is 10 percent of your premium.
You will only have to pay the penalty for twice the number of years you delayed enrollment. For example, if you signed up at 67 years of age, your premium will be 10 percent higher for the next 4 years.
Part A is only half of Original Medicare. Check out what it takes to get fully covered.