Medicare is a health benefit program for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who:
- Are age 65 or older;
- Meet certain work history requirements;
- Or are under age 65 with certain disabilities or have end-stage renal disease.
Original Medicare came into being in 1965 and consists of Part A - hospital facilities, hospice and home health services; and Part B - providers of professional services, such as doctors. Later Medicare expansions brought Part C - Medicare health plans; and Part D - prescription drug coverage.
Part D, prescription drug coverage, may come as a stand-alone complement to Original Medicare or as an integral part of a Part C - Medicare health plan.
My Medicare Choices
Original Medicare, Part A and B, offers great freedom to choose your providers whereever you are in the country. However it has "cost sharing" responsibilities (deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance) which can be expensive and surprising. For this reason many people supplement Original Medicare coverage with a Medigap health insurance policy that works in tandem. There are 10 standardized plan designs that can fit your life style and budget. These standardized plans are sold by insurance companies and are identified by letters A - N. Detailed information is available in the Medicare publication Choosing a Medigap Policy
Part C (Medicare health plans) are called Medicare Advantage plans and are most commonly recognized as HMO or PPO plans. Medicare Advantage plans are sold by insurance companies who have contracted with Medicare to cover all Part A and Part B benefits. They have cost sharing that is equivalent to Original Medicare, but may be different for specific services. They also may have additional attractive benefits and must have an annual maximum out-of-pocket limit. Detailed information is available in the Medicare publication Medicare & You