Medicare is health insurance offered by the federal government to most people who are 65 and older and to some younger people with disabilities.
Medicare now offers four kinds of insurance:
- Hospital insurance, called Medicare Part A, helps pay for hospital bills. When you sign up for Medicare, you automatically get Part A, which covers hospital bills. Most people do not have to pay a monthly cost (premium) for Part A, because they or their spouse paid Medicare taxes while they were working. Part A covers inpatient hospital services (i.e., costs associated with an overnight stay in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or psychiatric hospital, such as charges for the hospital room, meals, and nursing services). Part A also covers hospice care and home health care.
- Medical insurance, called Medicare Part B, helps pay for doctor bills. You chose whether to enroll in Part B or not. You pay a monthly premium for Part B. Part B covers physician care -- whether received as an inpatient at a hospital or at a doctor's office, or as an outpatient at a hospital or other health care facility -- as well as laboratory tests, physical therapy or rehabilitation services, and ambulance service.
- Medicare Advantage (formerly Medicare+Choice), called Medicare Part C, adds more types of coverage. Medicare Part C programs are in addition to the fee-for-service options available under Medicare Parts A and B. Private health care plans may offer Medicare benefits that include medical savings accounts, managed care plans and private fee-for-service plans.
- Prescription drug insurance, called Medicare Part D, helps pay for prescribed medications. Anyone who is eligible for Medicare is also eligible for Part D. As with Parts B and C, you have the choice to enroll or not, and you will pay a monthly premium.