Medicare is the United States national health insurance program for people 65 and older. It is also for people with certain disabilities or end-stage kidney failure. This program is divided into four parts (A-D), and it’s important to learn how these fit together in order to choose the right coverage plan.
Part A Hospital Insurance - Most people don't pay a premium for Part A because they or a spouse already paid for it through their payroll taxes while working. Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, including critical access hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities (not custodial or long-term care). It also helps cover hospice care and some home health care. Beneficiaries must meet certain conditions to get these benefits.
Part B Medical Insurance- Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover doctors' services and outpatient care. It also covers some other medical services that Part A doesn't cover, such as some of the services of physical and occupational therapists, and some home health care. Part B helps pay for these covered services and supplies when they are medically necessary.
Part C Medicare Advantage-Medicare Advantage is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare. Private insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans contract with the federal government to provide health insurance benefits to people who qualify for Medicare. Each Medicare Advantage Plan can charge different out-of-pocket costs and have different rules for how you get services (like whether you need a referral to see a specialist or if you have to go to only doctors, facilities, or suppliers that belong to the plan for non‑emergency or non-urgent care). These rules can change each year.
Part D Prescription Drug Coverage - Most people will pay a monthly premium for this coverage. On January 1, 2006, Medicare prescription drug coverage became available to everyone with Medicare. This coverage is to help you lower prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future. Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage is insurance. Private companies provide the coverage. Beneficiaries choose the drug plan and pay a monthly premium. Like other insurance, if a beneficiary decides not to enroll in a drug plan when they are first eligible, they may pay a penalty if they choose to join later.
Medicare Supplement (Medigap)- If you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and B (Original Medicare), Medigap plans can help fill the coverage gaps in Medicare Part A and Part B. Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies and are designed to assist you with out-of-pocket costs (e.g., deductibles, copays, and coinsurance) not covered by Parts A and B. These plans are available in all 50 states and can vary in premiums and enrollment eligibility. Medigap plans are standardized; however, all of the standardized plans may not be available in your area.
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