Sep 13, 2023

How does Medicare Part B help seniors pay for care?

Manny Cominsky

Medicare Part B plays a crucial role in helping seniors pay for their healthcare needs, helping cover a wide range of outpatient services from doctor visits to preventive care. If you or a senior loved one is looking for help covering outpatient medical services, read more below to learn about Medicare Part B’s coverage, costs, eligibility, and enrollment process.

Medically Necessary Outpatient Care

Medicare Part B covers medically necessary outpatient care, which refers to services or care that are needed to diagnose or treat a medical condition and meet accepted medical practice standards. These services include visits to healthcare providers, outpatient procedures, X-rays, stitches, casts, and more. It also covers durable medical equipment (DME), such as walkers, wheelchairs, and hospital beds, if they are deemed medically necessary and prescribed by a doctor.

When it comes to outpatient care, Medicare Part B typically pays for 80% of the approved amount for covered services, after the annual deductible has been met. Following this, you are then generally responsible for the remaining 20% as a coinsurance. It's important to note that some services may require prior authorization or have specific coverage rules, so it's always advisable to check with Medicare or your healthcare provider.

Preventive Care and Services

One of the significant benefits of Medicare Part B is its coverage for preventive care and services. These services are aimed at detecting illnesses, preventing diseases, and keeping seniors healthy. Medicare Part B covers a wide range of preventive services, including screenings, tests, vaccines, counseling, and more.

Some examples of preventive services covered by Medicare Part B include annual wellness visits, flu, COVID-19, hepatitis B, and pneumonia vaccines, diabetes screenings, depression screenings, mammograms, colorectal cancer screenings, bone mass measurements, and pap tests. The great news is that most preventive services are covered by Medicare with no coinsurance, meaning you won't have to pay anything out of pocket for these services.

It's important to note that certain preventive services may have specific eligibility requirements based on age, gender, or risk factors. Additionally, to receive coverage for preventive services, it's crucial to visit healthcare providers who accept Medicare assignment.

Coverage for Durable Medical Equipment

Medicare Part B also provides coverage for durable medical equipment (DME) that serves a medical purpose, can withstand repeated use, and is appropriate for use in the home. DME includes items such as walkers, wheelchairs, canes, hospital beds, and more. To receive coverage for DME, your healthcare provider must certify that it is medically necessary for your condition.

You have the option to purchase or rent DME from Medicare-approved suppliers. It's important to ensure that you obtain the equipment from a Medicare-approved supplier to ensure proper coverage. Medicare Part B covers 80% of the approved amount for DME, and you are responsible for the remaining 20% coinsurance.

Mental Health Services

Medicare Part B recognizes the importance of mental health and provides coverage for a range of mental health services. These services include therapy, counseling, psychiatric evaluations, medication management, and partial hospitalization for mental health issues. It's worth noting that mental health care provided in an inpatient setting is covered by Medicare Part A.

Similar to other services covered by Medicare Part B, mental health services require a coinsurance payment of 20% after the annual deductible has been met. It's crucial to seek mental health services from healthcare providers who accept Medicare assignment to ensure proper coverage

Ambulance Services

Medicare Part B covers ambulance services when they are medically necessary for transportation to the nearest appropriate medical facility. If your health is at risk, and traveling by any other means of transportation could endanger you, Medicare will cover ambulance services. It's important to note that coverage for non-emergency ambulance transportation is limited to situations where there is no safe alternative available.

Understanding the Costs of Medicare Part B

While Medicare Part B provides valuable coverage, it's important to understand the associated costs. Medicare Part B has monthly premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance.

Part B Premiums

Most individuals pay a standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which is $164.90 in 2023. However, the premium amount can vary based on income. If your modified adjusted gross income exceeds a certain threshold, you may be subject to an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). It's advisable to review your past income tax return to determine if IRMAA applies to you.

Part B Deductibles and Coinsurance

Each year, Medicare Part B has an annual deductible that must be met before Medicare starts paying for covered services. In 2023, the Part B deductible is $226. After meeting the deductible, you typically pay a 20% coinsurance for most covered services. However, preventive care services do not require a coinsurance payment, providing seniors with significant cost savings.

It's important to note that some individuals may opt for Medicare Supplement Insurance, also known as Medigap, to help cover the out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare Part B. Medigap policies can provide additional financial protection and peace of mind.

Eligibility for Medicare Part B

To be eligible for Medicare Part B, you must first be eligible for Medicare. Most individuals become eligible for Medicare Part B when they turn 65. However, some may qualify for Medicare before the age of 65 due to certain disabilities or specific health conditions. If you're unsure about your eligibility, you can verify it through the official Medicare website or consult with a healthcare professional.

Enrolling in Medicare Part B

Enrolling in Medicare Part B is an essential step in accessing its benefits. The process may vary depending on your circumstances, but there are specific enrollment periods to be aware of.

Initial Enrollment Period 

The Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month, and extends three months after your birthday month. It's crucial to enroll during this period to avoid any late enrollment penalties.

Special Enrollment Period 

In certain situations, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. This period allows you to enroll in or make changes to your Medicare coverage outside of the standard enrollment periods. Qualifying events for a Special Enrollment Period include changes in employment, loss of employer-sponsored insurance, and more. It's important to review the specific criteria to determine if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Open Enrollment Period

Every year from October 15 to December 7 is the Open Enrollment Period, during which you can join, switch, or drop your Medicare plan, with Medicare coverage starting on January 1. 

Alternatives to Medicare Part B

While Medicare Part B offers comprehensive coverage, there are alternatives available. One such alternative is Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and provide the same coverage as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). In addition to the coverage provided by Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans often include prescription drug coverage and additional benefits like dental, vision, and hearing coverage.

It's important to carefully review and compare different Medicare options to determine which plan best suits your individual needs. Consider factors such as coverage, costs, network of providers, and additional benefits when making your decision.

Medicare Part B plays a crucial role in helping seniors pay for their healthcare needs. From medically necessary outpatient care to preventive services, mental health services, and coverage for durable medical equipment, Medicare Part B offers comprehensive coverage. Understanding the costs, eligibility criteria, and enrollment periods is essential in maximizing the benefits of Medicare Part B. By exploring alternatives such as Medicare Advantage, seniors can make informed decisions to ensure they receive the necessary care and financial protection they deserve.

To learn more about how Sunbound can help make senior care more affordable for you or your loved one, send us an email at or request more information on Sunbound. Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living and senior care and is on a mission to make senior living affordable for everyone.

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