can be pricey, and trying to figure out all of the healthcare options available
to you can be exhausting and frustrating. Whether you’re new to Medicare or just
interested in staying informed, keep reading to learn the basics of this
federal health insurance program.
What Is Medicare?
is a government-funded health insurance program that provides medical coverage
for people over the age of 65. You can also be eligible for Medicare if you:
a disability and have been receiving social security disability benefits for two
a disability pension from the Railroad Retirement Board
Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
kidney failure (end-stage renal disease) and receive dialysis or have undergone
a renal transplant
health insurance can be used as primary insurance or as supplemental, backup
coverage. Medicare can be used to help pay for medical care and long-term care,
but it might not cover all your medical expenses. It’s funded by taxes and, in
some cases, premiums that are taken out of your social security checks.
How Do I Enroll in Medicare?
You’ll automatically be
enrolled in the program if you’re already receiving social security benefits.
If you aren’t already receiving benefits, you should contact the social
security office three months before your 65th birthday to enroll. You can apply
for Medicare coverage at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/apply.html.
What Are the Medicare ‘Parts’?
is designed to cover your essential medical needs, such as hospital stays and
doctor visits. The program is composed of four parts: Part A, Part B, Part C,
and Part D. Part A and Part B are sometimes called “classic Medicare.” These two parts provide for the majority of essential
services. Here is a brief description of each part:
Part A (Hospital)
section of Medicare covers your hospital care, including various hospital-related services. According to Medicare.gov, most
of your care related to treatment is covered by
Part A if you have to go to the hospital as an inpatient. Part A also covers
hospice care for those who are terminally ill.
most people with a modest income, there will be no premiums. People with higher
incomes may have to pay a small amount monthly for this plan.
Part B (Medical)
area of Medicare covers your general medical care. Part B covers outpatient care that you may need to stay healthy,
including a large portion of preventative services, medical supplies (known as
durable medical equipment, or DME), and many different types of tests and
screenings. Part B also covers mental health services.
Visit www.medicare.gov for a complete
list of covered services under Part B.
There is typically a premium for this section of
Medicare coverage, based on your income.
Part C (Medicare Advantage)
Part C is not actually a separate medical benefit. Part C is a
provision that allows approved private companies (such as HMOs) to provide insurance
plans to people who are enrolled in Parts A and B. Part C plans are also known
as Medicare Advantage plans. They cover all the benefits and services that parts
A and B cover. They also usually offer extra benefits, such as prescription
drug coverage and some extra services. Medicare Advantage plans usually cost
extra and payments or premiums are deducted from your social security check.
Part D (Prescription Drugs)
This part of Medicare covers prescription drugs. The cost or
premium for this plan depends on your income, and your copayments and
deductible depend on the type of medications you need.
Which Parts Should I Sign up For?
Medicare Parts A and B provide coverage for many services, not every medical
situation is covered. Long-term care is not considered part of Medicare. If you
need long-term care, you can find coverage under Part C (Medicare Advantage
plans) or Medigap plans, which are supplemental health policies.
also remember that drug prescriptions aren’t covered if you only decide to
choose Parts A or B. It’s a good idea to either enroll in Medicare Part D if
you need to cover your prescriptions, or to choose Plan C, which has plans that
cover some drug prescriptions.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
which plans are optimal for you depends on your income, overall health, age,
and what kind of care you will need. It’s best to read through the services and
plans carefully, and choose the plans that work best for you. Enrollment
periods are limited for some plans, so be sure you sign up so you don’t have a
gap in coverage.
you are concerned about whether your desired service is covered by Medicare, check
out our guide to what is and what isn’t covered under Medicare.
can also speak directly with your doctor, search the Medicare Coverage Database
online at www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/, or contact the Medicare service center at