| Tue, Jul 25, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Medicare Part A, Benefit Periods and Deductibles

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

senior man sittingYou may be familiar with insurance deductibles. Many homeowners and car insurance policies charge a deductible whenever you file a claim.

A health insurance deductible is usually charged once for the plan year. Starting January 1 or whenever your plan year begins, you pay your health care costs up to the deductible amount. After that, your health plan kicks in to help pay the cost of your care for the rest of the plan year. The cycle starts over at the beginning of each new plan year.

Medicare Part A deductibles are different. They are charged for each benefit period rather than for the year.

What is a benefit period?

In Medicare Part A, which is hospital insurance, a benefit period begins the day you go into a hospital or skilled nursing facility and ends when you have been out for 60 days in a row. If you go back into the hospital after 60 days, then a new benefit period starts and the deductible happens again. You would be responsible for paying two deductibles in this case – one for each benefit period – even if you’re in the hospital both times for the same health problem. View an example.

However, one benefit period could span more than one hospitalization. Imagine you’re in the hospital for a short stay and then you’re released. A few days later you have a set-back and go back into the hospital. Your benefit period is still in effect. In this case, you would be charged just one deductible. View an example.

Lifetime reserve days

Medicare Part A covers an unlimited number of benefit periods, and it helps pay for up to 90 days of care for each one. After 90 days, it’s possible to tap into lifetime reserve days.

Lifetime reserve days are like a bank account of extra hospital days covered by Medicare. You have 60 extra covered days in your account that you can use over your entire life. Lifetime reserve days may be applied to more than one benefit period, but each day may be used only once.

Hospital costs with Medicare Advantage may be different

Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) are an alternative to Original Medicare (Parts A and B). They are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans set their own cost-sharing terms and may or may not charge deductibles for hospital stays. Some plans may charge a flat amount per hospitalization up to a set number of days. Other plans may charge a copay or coinsurance amount for each day in the hospital.

Medicare Advantage plans include hospital and medical insurance all in one plan. Costs, coverage and other details are explained in plan materials. You can get specific plan information by calling the insurance company offering the plan or by visiting the company’s website.

Key points to remember

  • With Original Medicare, you pay a Medicare Part A deductible for each benefit period.
  • A benefit period begins when you enter the hospital and ends when you are out for 60 days in a row.
  • One benefit period may include more than one hospitalization.
  • Medicare Advantage plans may or may not charge deductibles for hospital stays.

Related content

Copays, Coinsurance and Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses

What is Hospital Observation Status?

Medicare Supplement Insurance or Medicare Advantage


For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.



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