Medicare is a federal health insurance program that covers millions of older adults and people with disabilities. Medicare has four parts – Parts A, B, C and D, which we have outlined below. Understanding Medicare can sometimes be complicated. If you need fair and unbiased help, you can call Minnesota's Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433 . They can help you compare plans so you can choose the one that best fits your needs.
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers costs such as in-patient stays, skilled nursing facility care, home health care and hospice care. Part A has deductibles and coinsurance, but most people don’t have to pay premiums for Part A, based on having worked at least 10 years in the US or being married to someone who has.
Medicare Part B covers almost all necessary outpatient medical services, including doctors’ visits, lab work and x-rays, durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, hospital beds, etc.), ambulance services, outpatient hospital care, etc. Part B has premiums, deductibles and coinsurance that you have to pay yourself or though other insurance coverage.
Together Medicare Part A and Part B are also known as Original Medicare. Under Original Medicare, you can use any health care provider who accepts Medicare. There are no networks and you pay the same amount for covered services from any Medicare provider. There is no prescription drug coverage under Original Medicare, but you can enroll in a Medicare Part D plan.
Medicare Part C is more commonly known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans are Medicare plans offered by private companies that contract with Medicare to cover Medicare Parts A, B and sometimes Part D (prescription drug) benefits. Medicare Advantage plans are private health plans that usually require their members to go to providers from their network.
Medicare Part D is the optional prescription drug coverage offered by private insurance companies and available to all people with Medicare. There are many Part D plans to choose from and all have monthly premiums. Each year, those with Part D plans can change plans from October 15 to December 7 for the coming calendar year. Plans can change premium amounts or the drugs they cover, so it’s important to compare plans each year.