As you approach retirement age, one of the most important decisions you’ll face is how to manage your healthcare costs. One program that can help you do that is Medicare, a federal health insurance program that covers people who are 65 or older, as well as those who have certain disabilities.

If you’re new to Medicare, it can be overwhelming to figure out how it works and what options are available to you. In this beginner’s guide to Medicare, we’ll provide an overview of the program, including eligibility requirements, coverage options, and costs.

Eligibility for Medicare

To be eligible for Medicare, you must meet one of the following criteria:

– You’re 65 years old or older

– You have a disability and are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for at least two years

– You have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65. If you’re not receiving benefits, you’ll need to sign up for Medicare during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after.

Medicare Coverage Options

There are four parts to Medicare coverage:

– Part A (hospital insurance): Covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and home health care.

– Part B (medical insurance): Covers doctor visits, outpatient care, medical equipment, and preventive services.

– Part C (Medicare Advantage): Private insurance plans that offer the same coverage as Parts A and B, and may include additional benefits like dental and vision.

– Part D (prescription drug coverage): Covers prescription drugs, and is available as a standalone plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Costs

While some Medicare benefits are free, others require a monthly premium or deductible. Here’s a breakdown of the costs associated with each part of Medicare:

– Part A: Most people don’t pay a premium for Part A, as long as they or their spouse have paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. If you don’t qualify for premium-free Part A, you may be able to purchase it for a monthly premium.

– Part B: The standard monthly premium for Part B is $148.50 in 2021, but higher-income individuals may pay more. Part B also has a deductible of $203 per year.

– Part C: Costs for Medicare Advantage plans vary depending on the plan and your location, but typically include a monthly premium, deductible, and copays or coinsurance for services.

– Part D: Costs for Part D plans also vary depending on the plan and your location, but typically include a monthly premium, deductible, and copays or coinsurance for prescriptions.

Understanding Medicare can be challenging, but there are many resources available to help you navigate the program. is a great place to start, where you can find information about enrollment, coverage options, and costs. You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for personalized assistance.

In conclusion, Medicare can be a valuable resource for seniors and individuals with certain disabilities to manage healthcare costs. Understanding the program and your coverage options can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare.