Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for people ages 65 or older. As a key component to healthcare after retirement, it’s likely that Medicare will be your sole form of health insurance for the rest of your life.

Medicare does however come with certain gaps in coverage, so it’s important that you understand your options completely to receive the coverage you need.

Although Medicare has four parts (A, B, C & D), there are essentially two directions you can take when it comes to coverage options:

    UNDERSTANDING YOUR COVERAGE OPTIONS

  • Original Medicare (supplemented with Medigap and/or Part D)
  • Medicare Advantage

Original Medicare


Medicare Part A and Part B compose Original Medicare. This is your hospital and medical coverage that the government provides when you turn 65. Original Medicare does not cover all your healthcare expenses. Supplemental plans like Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plans) and Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) insurance plans can help cover your out-of-pocket expenses.

Medicare Advantage


Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, replaces Original Medicare. This coverage is provided by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare. These plans will sometimes include additional coverage for things like dental and vision care, prescription drugs or fitness programs. Medicare Advantage cannot be supplemented with Medicare Supplement insurance.

The Different Parts of Medicare


Medicare is composed of four parts: A, B, C & D. With so many different components, Medicare is a versatile system. You can combine different parts of Medicare to create your ideal healthcare plan.

    Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover:

  • Inpatient care in hospitals
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Hospice care
  • Home healthcare

    Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover:

  • Services from doctors and other health care providers, hospital outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and home health care
  • Preventive services to help maintain your health and to keep certain illnesses from getting worse

    Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

  • Includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B
  • Run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies
  • Usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) as part of the plan
  • May include extra benefits and services for an extra cost

    Medicare Part D (Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage)

  • Helps cover the cost of outpatient prescription drugs
  • Run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies
  • May help lower your prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future

The chart below compares the features of each of the four parts of Medicare. Use it as a starting off point to determine which coverage option may be right for you.

Medicare Coverage Choices Summary Chart

Part A&B

Part C

Part D

Primary reasons to enroll

You want basic Medicare coverage from the government
You want one plan that combines the coverage of Medicare Parts A & B and that may include Part D coverage plus extra benefits
You want a standalone drug plan to add to your Medicare coverage

Offered through a private company

Allows you to see any provider who accepts Medicare

(some plans)
NA (you can use any network pharmacy)

Covers overnight hospital stays

Covers medical care, like doctor visits

Covers prescription drugs

(may include)

Offers low or $0 co-pays

(some services)

Offers low or $0 deductibles

(some plans)
(some plans)

Limits your out-of-pocket costs

Covers preventive services, like flu shots

Covers additional benefits and services

(most plans)

Offers low or $0 additional monthly premium for prescription drug coverage

(may include)

Enrolling in Medicare


The best time to enroll in Medicare is during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This is a seven-month period that begins 3 months before you turn 65 and ends 3 months after you turn 65.

You can enroll in Original Medicare in the following ways:

Medicare Annual Election Period


The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP), more commonly referred to as Medicare Open Enrollment, takes place every year between October 15 and December 7. During this period of time you can drop, add or switch your Medicare plans.

Medicare plans change each year. And while you may be happy with your current coverage, you could end up paying more than you need or missing out on important benefits. It’s important you properly prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment begins to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Enrolling in Medigap & Medicare Advantage


It’s recommended that you enroll in Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement insurance during your IEP. This way, insurance companies cannot deny you coverage or charge you more due to your health.

Medicare Supplement insurance has its own initial enrollment period which lasts six months and begins on the first day of the month in which you are 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B.

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