What Is Medicare?
Medicare is the federal government's health care program for people over the age of 65, some younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
Most Medicare recipients have what’s known as Original Medicare coverage. The federal government runs the Original Medicare program, which includes two parts:
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
Medicare Part A covers hospital stays, a certain amount of time in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some health care services at home. Medicare Part A is free if you have at least ten years of U.S. work history.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)
Medicare Part B is health insurance. It covers services like visits to the doctor, lab work, X-rays, medical supplies, outpatient care, mental health care, and preventive services. You’ll pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B.
Instead of Original Medicare coverage, some people choose Medicare Advantage:
Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)
With Medicare Advantage, you buy health insurance from a private company that contracts with Medicare. The plan must provide the same benefits offered by Part A and Part B; it will usually offer additional benefits, too. You may get Medicare Advantage from a Health Maintenance Organization, Preferred Provider Organization, Private Fee-for-Service Plan, Special Needs Plan, or Medicare Medical Savings Account Plan. Most Medicare Advantage Plans offer prescription drug coverage. You’ll pay a monthly premium in addition to the fixed, national premium for Part B coverage.
You can compare Medicare Advantage Plans here.
Prescription drug coverage is provided under a separate part of the Medicare program:
Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage)
Medicare Part D is for outpatient prescription drug coverage. You can get a Part D plan from an insurance company or other private company approved by Medicare. You must choose a drug plan that works with your other Medicare benefits. For Original Medicare, you’ll choose a separate Part D plan. If you have Medicare Advantage, you can look for a plan that includes prescription drug coverage — most do.
Supplemental coverage is available to help you pay for certain kinds of Medicare costs:
A Medigap Plan is a private plan you can buy to supplement your Original Medicare coverage. It covers some or all of your out-of-pocket costs. Medigap Plans don’t include prescription drug coverage. Nor can you use Medigap with a Medicare Advantage plan.