Those who are 65 or older typically rely on Medicare to get the healthcare they need. Medicare has two primary types of coverage. For hospital costs and other inpatient care, Medicare Part A is the go-to standard. When you need to see a doctor or get other outpatient care, though, Medicare Part B is what you’ll want to tap into to help you cover costs.

Below, you’ll learn a little bit about what Medicare Part B offers participants. Then, you’ll get the latest on changes that will happen with the program starting in 2024.

The basics of Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B provides coverage for most healthcare needs that don’t involve having to stay at a hospital or other inpatient facility. Part B covers ordinary doctor visits, but it also helps pay for the costs of complex surgical procedures that don’t require inpatient stays. Part B also includes reimbursement for things like medical equipment, ambulance transportation, and diagnostic testing, along with a wide range of other healthcare issues including mental health costs.

Part B coverage is limited to treatments that are medically necessary to detect, diagnose, and treat injuries, illnesses, or other medical conditions. Part B also includes certain preventative care, including annual checkups and the initial wellness appointment that Medicare recipients get when they turn 65.

It’s important to understand, though, that Medicare Part B isn’t completely comprehensive in its coverage. Things like dental care, eye exams for glasses or contact lenses, or hearing aids generally aren’t covered.

Expect to pay more for Medicare Part B in 2024

To get Part B coverage, you need to pay monthly premiums. For most participants, the cost of Medicare Part B will be $174.70 per month, up $9.80 from 2023’s $164.90 per month.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services attributed the increase in Part B premiums primarily to projected increases in healthcare spending overall. Medicare Part B is required to charge enough to cover anticipated costs, and so when those costs rise, Medicare collects more from its participants.

In addition, if you don’t qualify for full Part B coverage because you’ve had a kidney transplant, you can get partial coverage for immunosuppressive drugs. The premium for that coverage in 2024 will be $103 per month, up $5.90 from the monthly cost in 2023.

Surcharges for high-income retirees

The premiums above are the base amounts that most people pay. However, if your income is high, then you might owe an additional amount. This surcharge, known as the income-related monthly adjusted amount or IRMAA, can be substantial compared to the regular payment.

The most important thing to remember about IRMAA surcharges for Medicare Part B coverage is that they’re based on your income from two years ago. So in 2024, Medicare will look at your income from 2022 to determine whether you need to pay higher premiums.

Data source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Note: Married persons filing separately who lived together at any time during the year pay $559 for full coverage or $480.70 for partial coverage if their income is $103,000 to $397,000, or $594 for full coverage or $515.50 for partial coverage if their income is more than $397,000.

There are two final costs that Medicare Part B participants have to pay. A deductible of $240 applies in 2024, which is up $14 from 2023’s levels. In addition, Medicare Part B usually provides coverage for just 80% of total costs for most items. You’ll have to pay the remaining 20%.

Be smart with Medicare Part B

Paying for your healthcare is a crucial part of planning for retirement. Knowing how to best use your Medicare Part B coverage will help make sure you stay financially secure in your retired years.

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