Medicare Basics

Frequently Asked Questions

3. What is Medicare Part B and what does it cover?

Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It helps cover medical services such as doctor's services, outpatient care and other medical services that Part A doesn't cover. Part B also covers some preventive services, such as flu shots and diabetes screening, to help you maintain your health and to keep certain illnesses from getting worse.

Enrollment in Part B is optional, and most people who choose it must pay a monthly fee, or premium. There may be a late enrollment penalty for Part B if the person doesn't join when he or she is first eligible.

(Watch the video about deciding whether to sign up for Medicare Part B. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

For important information about Part B, visit to view or print copies of "Your Medicare Benefits" or "Medicare & You." (Click on "Forms, Help & Resources,” and then select “Publications.”)

You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) which gives free health insurance counseling and guidance to people with Medicare -- or to family and friends who have authorization to help someone with Medicare questions. To get the most up-to-date telephone numbers, call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) or visit (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.) Click on "Forms, Help, & Resources," then select your state under the “Find someone to talk to” tab."

To sign up for Medicare Part B, visit and click on the “Sign Up/Change plans” tab and select “Apply for Medicare online." Or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778. If you are getting benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, call your local RRB office or 1-800-808-0772.