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Here's What Medicare Part B Costs and Covers in 2020

By Dan Caplinger - Nov 20, 2019 at 9:09AM

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Find out about Medicare coverage for doctor visits and other outpatient care.

If you're over 65, odds are good that you'll rely on Medicare as a vital piece of your financial plan. If you're looking for the most basic Medicare coverage, then you'll typically want the combination of hospital and doctor coverage that traditional Medicare provides. Alternatively, you can go with a Medicare Advantage plan that gets similar coverage through a private insurance company. For those needing prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D can give you what you need under either traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage.

Doctor visits are a key part of making sure you're healthy in retirement, and that's where Medicare Part B comes in. Here, we'll take a closer look at what Part B covers and how much it'll cost in 2020.

What does Medicare Part B cover?

Part B is the portion of Medicare that provides financial help for outpatient services and treatments that are medically necessary. The most common cost covered by Part B is the cost of visiting a doctor. But there are many other services that Part B covers, such as diagnostic tests, ambulance services, medical equipment, mental-health services, and second opinions under many circumstances. To be medically necessary, the services must help medical professionals address a disease or medical condition as they go through the process of detection, diagnosis, and cure.

Stethoscope on top of Medicare form on a wood table.

Image source: Getty Images.

Preventive services are also often covered. For instance, if you're new to Medicare, then you'll be able to get a one-time preventive visit for free that includes a close look at your medical history. Your doctor will then look at your present condition, including measuring vision, height and weight, body mass index, and blood pressure. A look at risk factors for depression also gets included. After the visit, you'll receive a written plan that will detail any services your doctor thinks you should have to avoid any big health problems down the road. In subsequent years, you'll get annual checkups to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, Medicare Part B doesn't cover everything. Some of the most commonly needed omitted items include most types of dental care, eye exams related to prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses, or hearing aids. To get a better sense of whether a particular service is covered, visit Medicare's website and look up exactly what you need, or talk to your medical professional.

How much does Medicare Part B cost?

Part B charges a monthly premium to participating Medicare participants. The premium that most people will pay in 2020 is $144.60 per month, which is up $9.10 per month from 2019's numbers.

Those retirees with high incomes might have to pay more for their monthly Part B premiums. Below, you can see how you might owe as much as $491.60 in monthly premiums.

For individuals with this income:

Or joint filers with this income:

Total monthly premium in 2020 will be:

$87,000 to $109,000

$174,000 to $218,000

$202.40

$109,000 to $136,000

$218,000 to $272,000

$289.20

$136,000 to $163,000

$272,000 to $326,000

$376

$163,000 to $500,000

$326,000 to $750,000

$462.70

Over $500,000

Over $750,000

$491.60

Data source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Note: Married persons filing separately who lived together at any time during the year pay $462.70 if their income is $87,000 to $413,000, or $491.60 if their income is more than $413,000.

In addition to monthly premiums, you'll also have to pay a couple of extra costs:

  • There's a deductible of $198 in 2020 that you're required to pay before Medicare Part B coverage kicks in. That's up $13 from the corresponding deductible amount in 2019.
  • Once you pay the deductible, Part B typically covers 80% of your costs. However, you're responsible for the remaining 20%. However, there are a few expenses in which Medicare will cover everything, such as preventive visits.

Use Medicare Part B and keep yourself healthy

Medicare Part B provides useful coverage for outpatient medical services like doctor visits. It's not free, but it can end up making the difference between being able to afford your healthcare or having to give up your financial independence in retirement.

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