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Medicare ABCDs

The U.S. government offers health insurance, known as Medicare, for citizens ages 65 and older and for people of any age who have certain disabilities. Private insurance companies, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, contract with the government to provide additional Medicare insurance options. Private Medicare plans often pay for services and expenses that the federal program does not cover.

Check your eligibility for Medicare.

Your Medicare Options

You have a couple of options for receiving Medicare coverage. You may choose to: 

  1. Enroll in the U.S. government's original Medicare offerings (known as Parts A and B.)
  2. Sign up for extra Medicare coverage with a private insurance company in addition to Medicare Parts A and B.

Understanding the Parts of Medicare

Medicare consists of 4 distinct parts or coverage areas. There is also supplement insurance, or Medigap. Depending on your health care needs, you may only need the federal government's original Medicare offerings (Parts A and B) or you may need private Medicare insurance (Parts C, D or Medigap).

Medicare Coverage areas include:

  • Part A for hospitalizations and home care
  • Part B for doctor visits and outpatient services
  • Part C for private health insurance
  • Part D for prescription drug coverage
  • Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) for unpaid Part A and B expenses

Medicare Part A for Hospitalizations and Home Care

If you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working for at least 10 years, you don't have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A. You are responsible for copays and deductibles.

Medicare Part A coverage may include:

  • Overnight hospital stays
  • Follow-up nursing care after a hospital stay
  • Hospice care
  • Certain in-home health care costs

Medicare Part B for Doctor Visits and Outpatient Services

All Medicare recipients are eligible for Part B. For Medicare Part B, you are responsible for paying a monthly premium, annual deductible, copays and coinsurance. Coinsurance refers to a percentage of expenses not covered by Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Part B coverage may include:

  • Doctor visits
  • Outpatient hospital services
  • Ambulance services
  • Mental health services
  • Certain therapies, such as physical or occupational
  • Diagnostic services, such as X-rays and blood work
  • Preventive care including vaccines and annual checkups
  • Some medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and oxygen equipment

Medicare Part C for Private Health Insurance

Some private insurance companies offer Medicare Part C, more commonly known as Medicare Advantage. These plans provide extra benefits and services beyond the government's original Medicare offerings. You must enroll in Medicare Parts A and B before you can join a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan.

Fees for Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans include monthly premiums, annual deductible, copays and coinsurance. Coinsurance refers to a percentage of expenses not covered by Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Part C coverage may include:

  • All of Medicare Part A coverage
  • All of Medicare Part B coverage
  • Prescription drugs (not all plans cover medications so check carefully)
  • Routine vision screenings, eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Routine hearing screenings and hearing aids
  • Dental exams and dentures
  • Podiatrist appointments
  • Chiropractic care
  • Fitness programs at participating health clubs

Medicare Part D for Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D covers the costs of prescription medications. Some Medicare Advantage plans (also called Medicare Part C) cover prescription drugs. If your plan does not cover your prescription medicines, or you do not have Part C, you may want to consider adding Part D coverage.

Fees for Medicare Part D may include monthly premiums, annual deductible, copays and coinsurance.

Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)

Medicare Supplement Insurance, known as Medigap, helps pay for expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance that aren't covered by the government's original Medicare (Parts A and B).

You must enroll in Medicare Parts A and B before purchasing a Medicare Supplement. There is a monthly premium fee for this added insurance.

A Medicare Supplement may include:

  • Visits to any doctor who accepts Medicare insurance
  • Coverage for an additional 365 days of hospital care after you have used Part A coverage
  • Coverage for an additional 100 days of skilled nursing home care after you have used Part A coverage