Medicare can seem a lot like alphabet soup with all its parts and plans and choices spanning so many letters of the alphabet.
Even so, things get a lot simpler when you remember every senior’s Medicare coverage starts with Original Medicare—Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B
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What is Medicare Part A and B?
Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B were introduced in 1965 as part of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, and specifically as part of the Social Security Act. The main purpose of Original Medicare at its inception was the same as its purpose to this day—to guarantee health coverage to Americans 65 and older, people under 65 with disabilities, and individuals with end-stage renal disease.
For most Americans, the initial enrollment period for Medicare begins three months before the month they turn 65 and ends three months after the month they turn 65. Disabled persons who become eligible for Medicare prior to reaching 65 have a similar seven-month enrollment period starting three months before the month their Medicare eligibility begins.
Initial enrollment signs a new Medicare recipient up for Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, which together provide the foundation of most seniors’ Medicare coverage. Medicare Part A helps cover hospital costs, while Medicare Part B normally pays 80% of the cost of covered medical expenses.
After enrolling in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, a Medicare recipient may decide to:
• drop the Part B coverage
• switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Part C plan
• add Medicare supplement insurance to Original Medicare coverage
• enroll in a Medicare Part D plan
Did you know …
Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans, introduced in 1997, are optional Medicare plans offered by Medicare-approved private companies and available to people already enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage similar to coverage offered by Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, but often provide additional coverage in various areas of health including dental, vision, and hearing. Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage.
Medicare Part D plans are also known as Medicare prescription drug plans. Medicare Part D plans, introduced in 2006, are voluntary prescription drug plans available to anyone enrolled in Medicare Part A or Part B. Part D prescription drug plans can be added to Original Medicare or provided through Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare supplement insurance options are important to know, but rather than going on a whirlwind tour touching on letters A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N, let’s go back to where Medicare began—Original Medicare Part A and Part B.