Medicare Q & A from the federal Medicare Agency - The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Print
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Julie Brookhart   
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 10:31

MAKING MEDICARE MAKE SENSE

Answers To Some of The Most Commonly Asked Medicare Questions

Q: Who Pays First If I Have Medicare and Other Health Coverage?

A: If you have Medicare and other health coverage, each type of coverage is called a “payer.” When there’s more than one payer, “coordination of benefits” rules decide who pays first. The “primary payer” pays what it owes on your bills first, and then your provider sends the rest to the “secondary payer” to pay. In some cases, there may also be a “third payer.” Whether Medicare pays first depends on a number of things, including the situations listed in the chart below. However, this chart doesn’t cover every situation. Be sure to tell your doctor and other health care provider’s insurance specialist/billing staff if you have coverage in addition to Medicare. This will help them send your bills to the correct payer to avoid delays. Note: Paying “first” means paying the whole bill up to the limits of the payer’s coverage. It doesn’t always mean the primary payer pays first in time.

If you have questions about who pays first or if your coverage changes, call the Medicare Coordination of Benefits Contractor (COBC) at 1-800-999-1118. TTY users should call 1-800-318-8782. For example, if you need to find out about Medicare’s coverage of End Stage Renal Disease and how it works with other insurance the COBC will answer your questions.   Also, to better serve you please have the following information ready when you call: your Medicare number (located on your red, white, and blue Medicare card) and one additional piece of information, such as your Social Security Number (SSN), address, Medicare effective date(s), or whether you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and/or Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage.

Below is a summary chart of who likely pays first. If you would like a copy of the Medicare booklet referenced in the chart, titled, “Medicare and Other Health Benefits: Your Guide to Who Pays First,” call 1-800-633-4227, (which is 1-800-Medicare), and ask for CMS Product Number 02179, and tell them the title of the booklet.

Please note: In some cases, if you are entitled to, but don’t have, the first payer coverage, the second payer won’t cover you.  This can be vital information to know in some employer retiree plans and COBRA cases.  For instance, if you are 65 and older, and retired, and you do not enroll in Medicare, it is possible that your retiree coverage won’t cover you.  Check with your retiree plan to be sure.

 

If You:

Situation

Pays First

Pays Second

See Page (s) (in publication no. 02179)

Are covered by Medicare and Medicaid

Entitled to Medicare and Medicaid

 

Medicare

Medicaid, but only after other coverage (such as employer group health plans) has paid

8

Are 65 or older and covered by a group health plan because you or your spouse is still working

Entitled to Medicare

The employer has 20 or more employees

 

The employer has              less than 20 employees*

 

Group health plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicare

 

Medicare

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group health plan

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

Have an employer group health plan after you retire and are 65 or older

 

Entitled to Medicare

 

Medicare

 

Retiree coverage

 

10–11

 

Are disabled and covered by a large group health plan from your work, or from a family member who is working

 

Entitled to Medicare

The employer has 100 or more employees

 


The employer has less than 100 employees

 

 

Large group health plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicare

 

Medicare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group health plan

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

Are 65 or over OR disabled and covered by Medicare and COBRA coverage

 

Entitled to Medicare

Medicare

COBRA

22-23

Have been in an accident where no-fault or liability insurance is involved

Entitled to Medicare

No-fault or liability insurance for services related to accident claim

Medicare

13-15

Are covered under worker’s compensation because of a job-related illness or injury

Entitled to Medicare

Workers’ compensation for services related to worker’s compensation claim

Usually doesn’t apply. However, Medicare may make a conditional payment.

15-19

Are a veteran and have Veterans’ benefits

Entitled to Medicare and Veterans’ benefits

Medicare pays for Medicare-covered services.                     

 

Veterans’ Affairs pays for VA-authorized services.

 

Note: Generally, Medicare and VA can’t pay for the same service.

Usually doesn’t apply

19-20

 

Are covered under TRICARE

Entitled to Medicare and TRICARE

Medicare pays for Medicare-covered services.

 

TRICARE pays for services from a military hospital or any other federal provider.

 

 

TRICARE may pay second.

 

20-21

 

*If your employer participates in a plan that is sponsored by two or more employers, the rules are slightly different.