What is Medicare anyway, and how does it work? What Does Medicare Cover?

Though it may seem like a simple question, the answer is complex.

Medicare is a national United States 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 various parts, and it’s important to learn how these fit together.

what is medicare
What is Medicare? It is a national health insurance program for older people and people who are disabled here in the U.S.

The Parts of Medicare
What is Medicare Part A? What Does Medicare Part A Cover?

Part A is hospital insurance that assists you with the cost of inpatient care and skilled nursing facility stays. It also helps with things like hospice and home health care. In general, you should think of the inpatient hospital benefit as coverage for room and board in the hospital.

It covers the cost of your semi-private room. Medicare Part A does NOT cover many of the actual treatments that might occur, such as scans or surgeries. Those fall under Part B.

The cost of Medicare Part A for most people is nothing. This is because during your working years you have paid taxes to pre-fund the premiums for your hospital benefits. If you don’t automatically qualify for premium-free coverage, most individuals can still apply for it. You’ll pay a hefty monthly premium to get it though.

What is Medicare Part B?
Medicare Part B is your outpatient medical coverage Part B covers essentially all of your other coverage outside of your inpatient hospital fees. Without Part B, you would be uninsured for doctor’s visits (including doctors who treat you in the hospital). You would also not have coverage for lab work, preventive services, and surgeries.

More importantly, Part B covers cancer therapy and kidney dialysis. These are extremely expensive items that would cost a fortune with out supplemental coverage?

The cost of Part B is set by Medicare and changes from year to year. Individuals in higher income brackets pay more than those in lower incomes brackets. How much you pay is determined by your adjusted gross income reported to the IRS in recent years.

You can read more about the cost of Part B on our Medicare Cost page.

What is Medicare Part C?
What is Medicare Part C and why don’t you have to enroll in it at Social Security like A & B?

Part C is is known as Medicare Advantage, or private insurance. The cost of Medicare Advantage plans varies by carrier, county of residence, and plan selected.

To enroll in a Part C plan, you must first be enrolled in both Parts A and B. Even if you find a Medicare Part C plan with a very low premium, you will still pay for Part B.

The reason you don’t enroll in Part C at Social Security is that Medicare Part C is voluntary. Many people prefer traditional Medicare supplements and do not want a Part C Medicare Advantage plan. It is your choice whether you wish to opt for one as opposed to just staying with your original Medicare A & B and enrolling in Medigap.

What is Medicare Part D?
Medicare Part D is the newest part of our national health insurance program for people age 65 & up. For half a century, Medicare did not include any drug coverage for prescription medicines. In 2006, our federal government rolled out Part D.

What does Medicare Part D cover? You can think of Part D as a pharmacy card.

It covers retail prescription drugs that you pick up yourself at the pharmacy or order via mail order. You choose a carrier and enroll in their drug plan, and that’s how you sign up for Part D drug plan. Most states have about 30 drug plans to choose from, and the best way to determine which one is the right fit for you is to have your agent run a Part D analysis using Medicare’s prescription drug finder tool.

help understanding Medicare
You can define Medicare as insurance for people over age 65 and people with certain disabilities.

What is Medicare vs Medicaid?
A common question around here is “What is Medicare vs Medicaid?” Medicare is a health insurance program for the elderly. Medicaid, on the other hand, if financial and/or healthcare assistance for low-income individuals. Some people 65 and older can qualify for both. In that scenario, Medicare is primary and Medicaid is secondary.

Medicare has several Savings Programs which you can apply for through your state’s Medicaid office. These may help you to pay your Medicare Part B premiums as well as provide drug plan assistance. Check with your state’s Medicaid office to see if you qualify.