What is the Medicare Tax Rate?

The Medicare tax rate is the percentage of your paycheck that is taken out to help fund Medicare. There is a Medicare tax for employers as well as for you, and both pay 1.45% for a total of 2.9%. Medicare withholdings are taken out of your paycheck directly, and everyone pays them in order to continually fund the Medicare program, which provides health insurance to U.S. residents over the age of 65.

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jan 25, 2022

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The Highlights

  • When you pay Medicare tax, you’re helping to fund Medicare—a federal health insurance program for people aged 65 or older
  • Medicare contributions are automatically taken out of your paychecks
  • The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% for you and 1.45% for your employer

If you earn a wage or salary, you’re probably familiar with the rewarding feeling you get when payday rolls around. Seeing how much you’ve earned from all of your hard work is immensely satisfying. But, something less gratifying about getting your paycheck? Seeing all the money from your earnings that’s taken out for taxes. 

Payroll taxes—the money that you can see being withheld—are automatically taken out of your paycheck by your employer who then pays the government on your behalf. These taxes can include income tax and unemployment tax, as well as Social Security and Medicare contributions. You’ll have to pay this even with the best Medicare companies.

In this article, we’ll dive into one specific payroll tax: the Medicare tax. Every American worker pays the Medicare tax, so it’s important to understand what it’s for, how it works, and what the current rate is. Before you get started, take a moment to compare your Medicare options when you enter your ZIP code for free quotes above.

How much money goes toward Medicare?

Because Medicare contributions are automatically taken out of your paychecks, you’re likely wondering, what is the Medicare tax rate? 

The current Medicare tax rate is 1.45% for you and 1.45% for your employer, or 2.9% total. In other words, 1.45% of your pay is automatically withheld from your paycheck and used as a contribution toward the Medicare program. Your employer then independently matches that contribution.

Although these rates have fluctuated (and mostly increased) since they were established by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) in 1935, they’ve remained stable over the past few decades.

Additional Medicare Tax Rate

While 1.45% is the standard Medicare contribution, things are different if you earn significantly more money than the average individual. In fact, if your wages exceed $200,000 in a calendar year, you’ll be required to pay an Additional Medicare Tax. 

Currently, the rate of this additional tax is 0.9%. So, between the standard Medicare tax and the Additional tax, the total withheld would be 2.35% of your wages. Unlike the standard Medicare tax, your employer does not match this additional percentage.

Is there a wage base limit on Medicare taxes?

A wage base limit is the maximum amount of wages that are subject to taxation for a given year. Unlike Social Security taxes, another kind of FICA tax, there’s no wage base limit on Medicare taxes. This means there’s no maximum on the amount of tax you could be required to pay based on your earned income.

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What are Medicare taxes?

While you now understand that 2.9% of your earnings  go toward Medicare, you may still have some questions. For instance:

  • What is Medicare?
  • Why do you have to pay for it? 

The answer to the latter question lies in the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)—a piece of the tax code that requires all American workers to contribute to certain federal programs. The particular part of FICA that covers Medicare contributions is more formally known as the Medicare Hospital Insurance Tax.

Where do my FICA contributions go?

FICA taxes are used to fund Medicare and Social Security. The collective funds from these taxes are pooled, so the money from your contributions is not kept specifically for you. Instead, it goes toward those who receive Medicare and Social Security benefits. 

The people who most commonly receive Medicare and Social Security benefits are retirees, people with disabilities, veterans, and children. So, when you contribute money to Medicare and Social Security, you’re helping the government provide essential medical services and healthcare to these individuals, who often need more care. 

While you may not currently benefit from Medicare, this government-funded program likely assists some of your family members, and in fact, Medicare may become your health insurance provider after you turn 65 years old. 

What is Medicare?

When you pay Medicare tax, you’re helping to fund Medicare—a federal health insurance program for people aged 65 or older. Individuals who have a disability, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), may also be eligible for Medicare sooner than 65. 

The government established Medicare (and continues to operate the program) to help remove financial restrictions on medical care for those who may need it most.

Medicare vs. Medicaid

You’ve likely heard of both Medicare and Medicaid. Because they sound so similar, it’s easy to get them confused. So, what sets them apart from each other? 

Both Medicare and Medicaid are healthcare plans run by the government, but there are a few very important differences:

  • Medicare – Medicare is a federal health insurance program that’s only available to people 65 and older, as well as people with certain disabilities or medical conditions.
  • Medicaid – Medicaid provides health insurance to people with limited income or resources. It’s run by both the federal and state governments. You can receive benefits from both Medicare and Medicaid at the same time, as long as you meet the qualifications for both. In fact, Medicaid offers assistance in paying for Medicare.

How Medicare Works: The Different Parts of Medicare

Original Medicare, the standard plan, is divided into 3 main components: Part A, Part B, and Part D. There’s also Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage), as well as plans for additional coverage, collectively called Medigap. 

If all those parts and plans seem confusing, don’t worry. We’ll go into more detail about what each part means and what they cover.

Part A: Hospital Insurance

Part A, also referred to as hospital insurance, helps to cover hospital visits. This can include inpatient care in hospitals, nursing facilities, and hospice centers. Home health care can also be covered through Medicare Part A. So, if you’re wondering if medicare can pay for a caregiver, Medicare Part A may be for you. 

Part A, unlike the other parts of Medicare, usually doesn’t have a monthly premium. Although it doesn’t cost you anything by itself, Part A is often bundled with other parts that do have a monthly cost.

Part B: Medical Insurance

The second component of Original Medicare is Part B: the Medical Insurance aspect of the plan. Medicare Part B coverage can include:

  • Doctor’s services
  • Outpatient hospital care
  • Home health care
  • Medical equipment (for instance, wheelchairs or hospital beds)
  • Preventative services (for instance, vaccines or yearly check-ups)

Part B has a monthly premium and is frequently bundled with Part A. These two parts together are the foundation of Original Medicare.

Because it has a monthly premium, you might think that delaying signing up for Part B could save you some money. But there’s a catch. If you choose not to sign up for Part B when you first become eligible but then sign up later on, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty. This fee is added to your monthly premium every month for the whole duration of your enrollment. 

So, if you know that you’ll eventually need Part B, it might be a better idea to sign up as soon as you can.

Part D: Drug Coverage

We’ll come back to Part C later. For now, let’s go over the third component of Original Medicare: Prescription Drug Coverage. Medicare Part D is an optional drug plan that can be added to Parts A and B of Original Medicare.

Part D, like Part B, has a monthly premium and late enrollment penalties. But, unlike Parts A and B, drug coverage is provided by private companies that you get to choose from.

Part C: Medicare Advantage

Now that we’ve covered Original Medicare, let’s circle back to Medicare Part C, better known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Original Medicare provided by private companies. Even though they’re independently administered, Advantage plans are approved by the Medicare program. They’ll often take the form of a bundled plan, including equivalent coverage for Parts A, B, and usually D.

If you have Part C, you’ll have a choice of several plan types, including HMO and PPO. An HMO can limit who you can go to for care. So, if you have a favorite doctor, make sure they’re in-network before enrolling in an HMO Advantage plan.

Despite potential limitations on providers, Medicare Advantage plans do offer some additional benefits. For instance, these plans can:

  • Have lower out-of-pocket costs 
  • Include benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t, such as vision, hearing, and dental

For some people, these positives outweigh the negatives and make an Advantage plan more attractive than Original Medicare.

Medigap

The final aspect of the Medicare program is Medigap (Medicare Supplement insurance plans) These plans are intended to help you pay the out-of-pocket costs in Original Medicare, and are offered by private insurance companies. 

In other words, they “bridge the gap” between the costs covered by Medicare and those not.

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Medicare Tax Rate: The Bottom Line

The next time you see the Medicare tax line on your paycheck, you’ll have a better understanding of where that money goes and how your contributions could potentially benefit you down the road. 

If you’re considering signing up for Medicare, or any health insurance program, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best rates you can. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know which plans will help you get the most benefits for the most affordable price. Fortunately, we are here to help.

Whether you’re looking for Medicare Supplement (Medigap) or want to shop Medicare Advantage plans, you can get free quotes right here. Enter your ZIP code for fast, free quotes from top companies today.

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