Medicare Part A: What It Covers, What It Costs

Medicare Part A is the hospital insurance portion of Medicare. For most people, it’s premium-free.
Claire TsosieAug 23, 2021
What is Medicare Part A? 

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Medicare Part A is the portion of Medicare that covers hospital care and related services. Unlike the other parts, it’s usually available without a premium. Here’s what to know.

 — the government-run part of Medicare that you can enroll in through Social Security — is made up of two parts: Medicare Part A and .

While Part B generally covers doctor's appointments and preventive care, Medicare Part A is hospital insurance and generally covers:

This covers hospital services you get when you’re admitted to a hospital on doctor’s orders, including semiprivate rooms, meals, general nursing and drugs for inpatient treatments. The hospital must accept Medicare.

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care in a variety of facilities, including:

You can get short-term care at a certified skilled nursing facility following a qualifying inpatient hospital stay of at least three days. Covered services include a semiprivate room, meals, skilled nursing care and other services, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Other covered services include:

Hospice is the end-of-life care you receive if you're terminally ill, for example. Covered services include care from doctors, nurses and aides; medical equipment (such as wheelchairs); certain prescription drugs; occupational therapy; physical therapy; and grief and loss counseling for you and your family.

Covered services include part-time skilled nursing and home health aide care, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, medical social services and injectable osteoporosis drugs for women. Medicare does not pay for 24-hour-a-day care at home, meal delivery, homemaker services (if that's the only care you need), or personal care, such as bathing or dressing (if that's the only care you need).

Generally, you're eligible for Medicare Part A if you meet one of the following requirements, :

You may qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A if you or your spouse has worked and paid Medicare taxes for over 10 years, among other ways. To determine your eligibility, use

If you don't qualify for premium-free coverage, you may be eligible to purchase Part A coverage. If you must pay for Part A, the monthly premium is either $259 or $471 in 2021, depending on you and your spouse's work and Medicare tax history.

“If you’re over 65 and you can afford it, it makes sense to pay for Part A,” says Jo Schneier, CEO and co-founder of , a Medicare quoting and enrollment tool for brokers, acknowledging that the premiums aren't cheap. “Original Medicare plus a supplement is probably going to be the best insurance you have,” he notes, referring to Medigap plans.


Read more about the different parts of Medicare and what they cover.

If you have additional questions about Medicare, visit or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227, TTY: 877-486-2048).

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