Ultimate Guide to Railroad Retirement Medicare Benefits

Reviewed and Updated by Troy Frink,

According to the US Railroad Retirement Board, more than 500 thousand people receive railroad retirement benefits, which include “retirement, survivor, unemployment, and sickness insurance benefits for railroad workers and their families.”

Many railroad retirees can also receive Medicare health insurance benefits. Railroad Retirement Medicare benefits work much the same way as regular Medicare benefits. The difference lies in what organization administers the benefits. The Railroad Retirement board administers railroad Medicare benefits for most eligible people, and the Social Security Administration administers regular Medicare benefits.

Who Is Eligible for Railroad Retirement Benefits and Medicare?

Railroad Retirement benefits do not include health insurance, but many retirees are also eligible for Medicare. Each program has different eligibility requirements.

Railroad Retirement Benefit Eligibility Requirements

According to Union Pacific, one of the major railroad companies in the United States, the earliest that Railroad Retirement benefits begin is “either age 60 with 30 years of qualifying service, or age 62.” 

If you have less than 30 years of service, you must wait until full retirement age to receive full benefits. You may be eligible for reduced benefits if you’re at least 62, but haven’t reached full retirement age, which ranges from 65-67 depending on when you were born. For example, full retirement age is 67 for anyone born after 1960.A

Another way you can qualify for Railroad Retirement Board benefits is through disability insurance. You must have at least 10 years of service to qualify for RRB disability insurance.

Medicare Eligibility Requirements

Many people are eligible for Railroad Retirement Board Medicare benefits when they turn 65. You can also qualify if you have ALS, ESRD*, or SSDI**.

If you are already receiving Railroad Retirement or Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled. You’ll receive information about it a few months before your birthday. You will “have the option of turning Part B coverage down” because you have to pay a monthly premium for Part B.

*The Social Security Administration handles benefits for enrollees with ESRD.

**Must have had SSDI for at least 24 months to qualify.

What Does Medicare Cover?

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers many medical expenses, but it doesn’t cover everything. Here’s a breakdown of what Medicare covers:

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers inpatient care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice, and home health services. You may be responsible for copays, coinsurance, and/or deductibles.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B helps pay for outpatient care including doctor’s appointments and preventive services. Part B also helps pay for emergency medical transportation, durable medical equipment (DME), mental health services, and partial hospitalization. You may be responsible for paying deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and/or monthly premiums.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance policies that can offer additional benefits to Original Medicare. Those supplemental benefits can include hearing, vision, dental, meal delivery, and even fitness classes. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription drug benefits.

Medicare Part D

Another way to get prescription drug coverage is through a standalone Medicare Part D plan. You may be responsible for premiums, copays, coinsurance, and/or deductibles with a Part D plan.

What Is a Railroad Retirement Medicare Supplement?

It’s important to understand the difference between Medigap and Medicare Advantage because you can’t have both types of plans. While Medicare Advantage plans cover additional health benefits, Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans cover financial items such as copays and coinsurance. 

Medigap plans offer eight different levels of coverage in 2020, and each level is assigned a letter. Note: People who enrolled prior to 2020 might have Plan C or Plan F. Plans that cover the Part B deductible (like Plan C and Plan F) will not be available to anyone newly eligible for Medicare in 2020.

Medicare Supplement Comparison Chart

Learn More About Railroad Medicare Benefits

If you need help finding the right Medicare plan, a licensed agent with Medicare Plan Finder may be able to help. Every location has different plans, and it may be difficult to determine what plan would work best. Our agents are highly trained and they can help you determine what kind of plan you need for additional coverage — Part D, Medicare Advantage, or Medigap. Call 844-431-1832 or contact us here to set up a no-cost, no-obligation appointment today.

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