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What are the different parts of Medicare?


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Summary: Medicare Part A = hospital coverage. Medicare Part B = Medical coverage. Medicare Part D = prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part C = Medicare Advantage, which usually includes hospital, medical, and prescription drug coverage.

A “Part” is something that combined makes up a whole. Different parts of Medicare cover different healthcare needs and hopefully together result in all the coverage you need. You should understand how the parts of Medicare may work to pay your medical bills. Altogether, the various parts of Medicare cover inpatient and outpatient healthcare and prescription drugs. To understand this better, take just a moment to have Medicare parts explained.

Medicare parts explained

The official parts of Medicare are marked by letters A, B, C, and D. Other supplemental kinds of insurance may work with Medicare to provide you with valuable benefits but aren’t really considered official Medicare parts. The sections below describe these various parts of Medicare and how they might work for you.

Medicare Parts A and B

Medicare Parts A and B refer to the two oldest parts of Medicare. You may hear people group these two parts of Medicare together under the names Original Medicare or Traditional Medicare or “basic Medicare.” Together, these two Medicare parts provide very broad coverage for inpatient and outpatient care; however, they won’t cover everything.

You might hear people describe Medicare Part A as hospital insurance and Medicare Part B as medical insurance.

  • Medicare Part A: Medicare Part A mostly focuses on covering bills for inpatient medical care. This could include services in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or hospice.
  • Medicare Part B; Medicare Part B concentrates on covering outpatient care, such as healthcare received in a doctor’s office or clinic. Part B may also cover some services you get at home, like durable medical equipment and home healthcare.

Basic Medicare Parts A and B don’t have an out-of-pocket maximum and don’t cover prescription drugs, routine vision, nor routine dental. Medicare beneficiaries may choose to buy a Medicare supplement or join a Medicare Advantage plan to help control their costs in ways that Part A and Part B don’t do.

Medicare Part C

You will usually hear Medicare Part C referred to as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans are a replacement for Medicare Parts A and B. When you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you will use that plan’s identification card instead of your Medicare card when you access services. Even so, you need to first qualify for and enroll in Medicare Parts A and B to qualify to join Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Advantage plans are all-in-one coverage and may include a variety of extra benefits including:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Routine vision
  • Routine hearing
  • Routine hearing
  • Transportation to a grocery store
  • Rides to the doctor office
  • Meal delivery
  • House cleaning to reduce asthma attacks

Medicare Part D

Medicare Parts A and B only cover prescription drugs in limited circumstances. If you have Original Medicare, you can get drug coverage from a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan. Alternatively, you might choose a Medicare Advantage plan that already comes bundled with drug coverage.

You can enroll in Part D if you only have Medicare Parts A and B or have a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include drug coverage. If you don’t enroll in Part D when you first qualify, you might have to pay a late-enrollment penalty unless you already have credible prescription coverage or are enrolled in an Extra Help program.

What is Medicare Supplement?

Medicare Supplement is not an official lettered “Part” of Medicare, but if you have Original Medicare you may want it. With Medicare Part A and Part B, you may be left with significant out-of-pocket costs including copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. Original Medicare also has no out-of-pocket maximum, or cap on how much you might spend. Medicare Supplement Insurance plans may cover a portion of these out-of-pocket costs.

Which parts of Medicare do I need?

If you choose Medicare Advantage, that usually is all you need. Medicare Advantage (Part C) typically includes:

  • Hospital coverage (Part A)
  • Medical coverage (Part B)
  • Prescription drug coverage (Part D)
  • An out-of-pocket maximum

You cannot be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and Medicare Supplement plan at the same time.

If you chose Original Medicare, you have hospital (Part A) and medical (Part B) coverage. You can add:

  • A stand-alone prescription drug plan (Part D)
  • A Medicare Supplement plan to cover out-of-pocket costs

To start looking for Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug, or Medicare Supplement Insurance plans in your area, enter your zip code on this page.

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