If life is a journey, then you’ll want to pack for the trip. Medicare, the government-sponsored health insurance program for people 65 and over (and those with certain disabilities), is one of the most important items you can take with you.
However, Medicare is broken down into parts. And you’ll need to understand them before you can choose which ones you plan to take. Let’s explore the different parts of Medicare and learn how you can use them to meet your health goals.
Part B complements your Part A coverage to provide coverage both in and out of the hospital. In fact, Part A and Part B were the first parts of Medicare created by the government. This is why the two parts together are often referred to as “Original Medicare.” Additionally, most people who do not have additional coverage through a group plan (like those offered by employers) generally sign up for Parts A and B at the same time.
Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. It's made up of plans approved by Medicare that are offered through private insurance companies. Before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, you will still need to sign up for both Part A and Part B, and then choose a Medicare Advantage plan that is right for you. This means that to get a Medicare Advantage plan, you will have to sign up directly with the private insurer that offers the plan you want after you’ve enrolled in Part A and B.
Medicare Advantage plans can offer additional benefits because the plans are made up of networks of health care providers. Networks can be more efficient in delivering care. As a result, they reduce overall health care costs. Some Medicare Advantage plans require you to use their network of providers. Others allow you to go out-of-network, usually for a higher cost.
Like Medicare Advantage, Part D plans are offered by private insurance companies that are approved by Medicare. Prescription drug benefits are often included as part of Medicare Advantage plans. However, if you choose to enroll in Original Medicare you can add prescription drug coverage to your Original Medicare coverage. You can do this by purchasing a stand-alone Part D plan from a private insurer.
Medicare Supplement plans are sometimes called Medigap plans. They’re sold by private insurance companies, just like Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.
To learn more about Medicare Supplement plans, go to “Unpacking Original Medicare and Understanding the Gaps.”
Interested in seeing how you can use the different parts of Medicare to get the coverage that is best for you? See our Medicare coverage comparison chart.
Mark Pabst has worked as a writer and researcher in the health care field for almost two decades. When not writing about health he tries to stay healthy through activities like hiking, climbing and paddling in the far flung corners of his native state of California. However, despite his best efforts he still has a few unhealthy habits he can’t shake, most notably a weakness for jelly donuts.
Aetna Medicare is a PDP, HMO, PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Our SNPs also have contracts with State Medicaid programs. Enrollment in our plans depends on contract renewal.
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