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Medicare Basics

Medicare is a federal health insurance program in the United States primarily designed to provide coverage for individuals who are 65 years of age or older. It also covers certain younger individuals with disabilities and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Medicare is divided into different parts, each covering specific services:

1. Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

  • Coverage: Inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health care.

  • Funding: Funded primarily through payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers.

2. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

  • Coverage: Doctor visits, outpatient care, preventive services, and some home health services.

  • Funding: Funded through premiums paid by beneficiaries and general tax revenue. Beneficiaries typically pay a monthly premium for Part B.

3. Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

  • Coverage: An alternative to Original Medicare (Parts A and B), offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. These plans often include additional benefits like vision, dental, and hearing, and usually include prescription drug coverage (Part D).

  • Funding: Funded through a combination of beneficiary premiums, Medicare payments to private insurers, and sometimes additional out-of-pocket costs.

4. Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage)

  • Coverage: Prescription drugs.

  • Funding: Funded through premiums paid by beneficiaries and general tax revenue. Beneficiaries usually pay a separate monthly premium for Part D coverage.


  • Age 65 or Older: Most people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65.

  • Under 65 with Disabilities: People under 65 may qualify if they have certain disabilities and have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a specified period.

  • End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): People with ESRD can qualify for Medicare regardless of age.


  • Initial Enrollment Period: Begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months after the month you turn 65.

  • General Enrollment Period: January 1 to March 31 each year, for those who missed their initial enrollment period.

  • Special Enrollment Period: Available for individuals who qualify due to specific circumstances, such as losing other health insurance coverage.

Importance of Medicare

  • Access to Healthcare: Provides access to necessary medical services for millions of Americans.

  • Financial Protection: Helps protect against the high costs of medical care, particularly for older adults and people with disabilities.

  • Public Health Impact: Supports a significant portion of the population, contributing to overall public health and well-being.

Medicare is a critical component of the American healthcare system, offering essential services to a large and diverse group of people, helping to ensure that older adults and those with certain medical conditions can access the care they need.


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