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Medicare Part A – Hospital Insurance

Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for:

  • Inpatient care in a hospital
  • Care at a skilled nursing facility (SNF) after a hospital stay
  • Some home health care and hospice care services

You are eligible at age 65 for Part A coverage at no cost if any one of the criteria below apply to you:

  • You receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits
  • You receive or are eligible to receive Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits
  • You may be eligible for Medicare Part A based on your spouse’s work history if:
    • You are currently married and your spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits (either retirement or disability). In addition, you must have been married for at least one year before applying.
    • You are divorced and your former spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits (either retirement or disability). In addition, you must have been married for at least 10 years and you must be single.
    • You are widowed and you were married for at least nine months before your spouse died. In addition, you must be single.

Even if you don’t meet any of these requirements at age 65, you may be able to get Part A coverage by paying a monthly premium. Usually, you can sign up for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) only during certain enrollment periods.

Play this video to learn about signing up for Medicare Part A.

  • Read Transcript

    Part A (Original Medicare)


    What is it?

    Medicare Part A, also known as Original Medicare, is the basic Medicare program for people age 65 and older. It helps to cover inpatient hospital service, hospice and home health care.

    Part A lets you choose any doctor or other health care provider that accepts Medicare. It is free coverage if you or your spouse has paid into Social Security for at least 10 years.

    What are the details?

    An enrollment packet will be sent to you about three months before your 65th birthday. Your Medicare card will be inside the packet, along with more about what you need to know about your benefits. Coverage starts the first day of the month you turn 65. If you don't get your packet, ask the Social Security Administration to send you one.

    What else should I know?

    • If you're a citizen or permanent resident of the United States age 65 or older, you can still enroll in Medicare Part A even if your full Social Security retirement age is not 65.
    • If you're getting Social Security or Railroad Retiree benefits, you will be signed up for Medicare Part A without having to do anything.
    • If you work past age 65 for a company with 20 or more fulltime employees, you can use your company's plan as your main coverage.


Learn more about signing up for Medicare Part A or changing plans.

If you have any questions about Part A or your eligibility, call the Social Security Administration at
1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.

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Last Updated: Aug. 02, 2023