Selecting the Best Plan for Your Needs: Comparing Medicare Part A, B, C and D

When you are first eligible for Medicare, you will have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up for Part A and/or Part B. If you don’t sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. You can also sign up for Part A and/or Part B during the General Enrollment Period from January 1 to March 31 each year.

If you delay enrolling in Medicare Part B any longer than 12 months after your Initial Enrollment Period ends, you’ll likely pay a late-enrollment penalty of 10% of the current premium (or higher, depending on how long you delay). So, if the monthly premium is $134 in 2019, and you wait more than 12 months to enroll, you’ll pay a late-enrollment penalty of $13.40 per month (for a total of $160.80 per year) as long as you have Part B coverage. This late-enrollment penalty is in addition to your monthly premium. You may have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. There’s no late enrollment penalty if you qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period.” 

What are the benefits covered under Original Medicare? 

Original Medicare covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, home health care, and hospice care. It also covers some preventive services to help maintain your health and to prevent certain diseases and conditions. These services are provided by doctors and other health care providers who accept assignment from Medicare. In most cases, there are no limits on how often you can receive these services. 

Original Medicare does not cover custodial or long-term care, dental care, eye exams related to prescribing glasses, hearing aids or exams for fitting them, cosmetic surgery, or routine physical exams—such as those done when applying for life insurance—unless they diagnose an illness or condition. It also doesn’t cover routine foot care or annual physical exams. Most routine screenings are covered under preventive services benefit though there may be copayments or coinsurance required when receiving these services. Routine vaccinations are also covered under this benefit with no out-of-pocket costs if received from a doctor or other provider who accepts assignment from Medicare. If you need any of these services not covered by Original Medicare, consider signing up for a private supplemental insurance policy (Medigap), joining a private Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), or getting a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Part D). You can also get some of these services through Medicaid if it’s available in your state and if you qualify based on your income level. Some people with limited incomes may also qualify for Extra Help from the Social Security Administration to help pay their prescription drug costs.. 

What does it cost to have Original Medicare? 

Most people who have paid into the Social Security system for at least 10 years don’t have to pay a premium for Part A coverage. If you didn’t pay into the system or didn’t pay in long enough, you may have to pay a monthly premium for Part A coverage. For 2019, the standard premium is $437 per month. People who enroll in Part B must pay a monthly premium. The standard Part B premium amount in 2019 is $135. However, some people who enroll in Part B will pay less than this amount ($104.90 per month) because they receive assistance from their state Medicaid program. You may also be able to get help paying your premiums and other costs related to Parts A & B through one of the following programs: Medicaid; Supplemental Security Income; Veterans Pension Benefit; Veterans Compensation Benefit; Railroad Retirement Board; or certain trade adjustment assistance programs. Contact your state Medicaid office or Social Security office for more information about these programs. 


There are several things to consider when comparing Medicare plan benefits and costs including what type of coverage you need and what you are willing to pay out of pocket for deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Consider all your options before making a decision on which plan is right for you.


Rachel Martin: Rachel, an adventure travel blogger, shares her experiences of hiking, climbing, and trekking around the world. Her blog includes detailed guides, safety tips, and inspiring stories to encourage others to embark on their own adventures.