What is Medicare Part a?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Medicare Part A is a portion of Medicare that most people get if they are US citizens, 65 or older, or permanently disabled. Anyone receiving this has either worked and paid Medicare taxes, or been married to someone who did. It is also possible to get Medicare Part A by paying a fee for it. It usually covers fees related to hospitalization.

Medicare Part A covers inpatient stays.
Medicare Part A covers inpatient stays.

Medicare is split into a number of parts. Most people get Medicare Part A without having to pay extra fees, and it covers some of the costs of hospitalization. These costs help pay for nursing, food, and room and board. They don’t pay for doctor’s care or services, or even ambulance care. Instead, these fees come out of Medicare Part B. Neither Part A nor B covers routine physicals, most prescription drugs, or copayments. These are usually provided for by purchasing other Medicare segments that are optional.

Regular doctor visits are not covered by Medicare Part A, but fall under Part B.
Regular doctor visits are not covered by Medicare Part A, but fall under Part B.

There are limits on care as provided in Medicare Part A, and these may change depending on federal law. They can cover inpatient care at a standard hospital for 90 days, (yearly) or a certain amount of days in a skilled nursing facility, or in a psychiatric hospital. Another potential benefit is hospice care, but it must be certified by a physician that a patient has less than six months to live. This plan also makes available home health care for up to 100 days in a calendar year.

Medicare Part A does not cover a full year of time in a nursing facility or a full year of home health care. This is why some people criticize it and say it doesn’t provide adequate benefits. Additional days of care may be available if people purchase optional health plans. Yet it also doesn’t fully cover the costs of each day’s stay in a hospital.

As of 2009, people may still have to make copayments for most services, including over $1000 US Dollars (USD) for a single hospitalization no matter the number of days. They may also owe money by the day for being hospitalized in skilled nursing facilities, usually exceeding $100 a day. This can quickly add up, and explains why many people who only are eligible for Medicare Parts A and B, and can’t afford supplemental insurance can quickly find themselves draining retirement savings if they have a lengthy hospitalization.

On the plus side, Medicare Part A certainly reduces medical costs to the person in need of health care, and many people do have this part for free. It’s fairly easy to tell if a person currently has this coverage by looking at a Medicare card. It should say Hospital (Part A) on its front, indicating coverage.

Medicare Part A doesn't cover prescription drugs, but they may be covered by supplemental plans.
Medicare Part A doesn't cover prescription drugs, but they may be covered by supplemental plans.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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