The federal government offers health insurance to Americans over the age of 65 through the Medicare program. According to Medicare.gov, it is possible for those younger than 65 to qualify under certain circumstances. For example, people with permanent kidney failure and certain disabilities can qualify for Medicare.
Those who qualify for Medicare can often choose between different plans that offer certain coverages. Medicare plans share their names with letters of the alphabet. Medicare Parts A, B and D often go together under the name “Original Medicare,” while Medicare Part C is a different plan that combines aspects of the others.
Medicare Part B is medical insurance. Essentially, it covers most services that one receives from a doctor on an outpatient basis, i.e., without checking into a hospital, such as preventative services. Medicare Part B also covers medical supplies.
Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient hospital stays on both a short-term and long-term basis. Part A also covers hospice care and some home health care, as well as services provided by a skilled nursing facility to its residents.
Medicare Part D provides coverage for some prescription drugs. AARP points out that patients should check Medicare formularies, which are lists of covered medications, to see if the drugs they take appear before purchasing a plan. A patient who decides to enroll in Medicare Part D can do so through a private insurer.
Another name for Part C is Medicare Advantage. It combines aspects of Parts A, B and often D to provide hospital care, outpatient services and prescription coverage in one comprehensive plan. Under federal law, Medicare Advantage plans must provide everything that Original Medicare covers. Some Part C plans also provide coverage that Original Medicare does not, such as vision care and dental insurance. However, patients must see in-network providers in order to take advantage of the benefits of Medicare Part C.
Regardless of what plan a patient chooses, Medicare does not cover all health care expenses. The patient is responsible for the remainder.