What Is Medicare?

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Medicare is health insurance for the following:

  • People 65 or older
  • People under 65 with certain disabilities
  • People of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) — permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant

The Different Parts of Medicare

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

  • Helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice, and home health care.
  • Most people don’t have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A because they or a spouse paid Medicare taxes while working in the United States. If you don’t automatically get premium-free Part A, you may still be able to enroll, and pay a premium.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

  • Helps cover doctors’ and other health care providers’ services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and home health care.
  • Helps cover some preventive services.
  • Most people pay up to the standard monthly Medicare Part B premium ($104.90 for 2013).
    Note: You may want to get coverage that fills gaps in Original Medicare coverage. You can choose to buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy from a private company.

Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage)

  • Offers health plan options run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Medicare Advantage Plans are a way to get the benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B. Most Medicare Advantage Plans cover Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).
  • Some Medicare Advantage Plans may include extra benefits for an extra cost.

Medicare Part D

  • Helps cover the cost of prescription drugs
  • May help lower your prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs
  • Run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies
  • Costs and benefits vary by plan