What is Medicare?

Great question. We’ve made it easy for you (or your loved ones) to get the answers you need.

Can you start with the basics?

Sure. Medicare is America’s health insurance program for people age 65 and older (and for people with certain disabilities). To get it, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Does it cover visits to the doctor or hospital?

Medicare has different “parts” that cover different things. You choose the ones that best meet your healthcare needs. Let’s look at the first two parts:

Part A pays for hospital stays. Plus, some home health and hospice care.

Part B pays for doctor visits and care. It also covers some other health needs, like flu shots and walkers.

Parts A and B together are known as “Original Medicare.”

What about prescription drugs?

They’re not covered in Original Medicare, so you’ll need to add a separate plan, known as a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). These plans are offered by private insurance companies and are approved by the government.

Part D covers medications prescribed by doctors.

Wait, you’ve told me about Parts A, B, and D. Isn’t there a Part C?

Yes. Part C can give you all the above―and more―in one convenient package. These plans, known as Medicare Advantage plans, are offered by private insurance companies and are approved by the government.

Part C (Medicare Advantage plan) provides all the benefits of Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance), and often includes extra benefits they do not cover, such as dental and vision. Some of these plans also include prescription drug coverage (Part D).

Any other options I should know about?

There’s another insurance plan option, called a Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) policy, that you can add to Original Medicare.

A Medigap policy can help pay for certain healthcare costs that you will have with Original Medicare, such as deductibles and copays. Keep in mind that you cannot have a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medigap policy at the same time. You must choose one or the other.

Now that I understand the basics of Medicare coverage, how do I get it?

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