Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 years of age or older, some people with disabilities under age 65 and people with end-stage renal disease.
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. If you paid Medicare taxes while working, you usually do not pay a monthly premium for Part A. However, there may be copayments, coinsurance or deductibles.
Medicare Part B, which is optional, is medical insurance for outpatient hospital care and doctor's services. There is a monthly premium and a deductible. The costs vary depending on the plan, coverage and services used. You have your choice of doctors in these plans.
Medicare Part C is called Medicare Advantage and combines Part A and Part B. These are plans run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. These plans may offer extra coverage, like vision, hearing, etc. and most include prescription drug coverage. Generally, you must see doctors in the plan. The costs may be lower than in the original Medicare Plans A and B.
Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage, helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. These plans are run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Most plans charge a monthly fee and there may be a yearly deductible or copayments or coinsurance. Most drug plans have a coverage gap sometimes referred to as the donut hole. In brief, each calendar year, your insurance covers your prescriptions up to a certain limit; they you pay for the drugs up to a certain limit (the donut hole). At that point, your insurance plan covers your prescriptions for the rest of the year.
Need help paying for your Medicare health care costs? If you have limited income and resources, you may be able to get help. The Medicare Savings Programs (there are four) help with Part A and B costs. The Extra Help Program helps with Part D costs such as premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments.
Additional Information about Medicare
Detailed information on all four parts of Medicare is included in the current year edition of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid handbook, Medicare & You. This handbook includes enrollment information, what Medicare covers, definitions of terms, costs, and much more.
This is the official government site for Medicare. It contains a lot of information and can be a little confusing to navigate.
The site includes several ways to find a listing of Part D drug plans. The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder will help you find a plan based on the medicine that you are taking. It is always best to speak with the company offering the Part D to verify that the plan currently covers your medication.
This website for the Medicare Rights Center includes clearly written basic information on Medicare including how to choose a plan and information on Part D.
If you would like speak with someone about sorting out your Medicare options, visit one of the sites below.
The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. The site connects older people and caregivers with information on senior services including Medicare. A few clicks will usually bring up phone numbers for local groups that can help answer questions.
BenefitsCheckUp helps you find benefit programs that can help pay for medications, healthcare, food, utilities and more.
NeedyMeds' State Health Insurance Assistance Programs Site Locator
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) are agencies that were established to provide information and counseling to people eligible for Medicare. These programs provide free, unbiased information and referrals about health access and insurance including Medicare and Medicare Part D. At this site you can locate a local program that will provide individual counseling with paid staff or a trained volunteer.