The different parts of your Medicare plan may be named for the alphabet, but they’re not nearly as easy to learn. To start learning your Medicare ABCs, you need to distinguish between the first two letters of the alphabet: A and B. HealthMarkets is here to help you learn the difference between Medicare Parts A and B, the services they insure, and their costs.
Medicare Part A—Hospital Insurance
Before jumping into the difference between Medicare A and B, let us explain each of these parts individually. Medicare Part A is designed to cover the parts of your major medical care that involve being in the hospital or its aftermath. It may be unpleasant to consider, but it’s true—as we age, we may need more serious or more frequent hospital care. Medicare Part A is designed to address that reality.
If you need to be hospitalized and the hospital you choose accepts Medicare, Medicare Part A will usually cover these aspects:
- The cost of your hospitalization and surgery
- The skilled nursing care you’d need as part of your recovery
Medicare Part A also covers other important services:
- Hospice care
- Some home health services
Most people who qualify for Medicare Part A will not pay a premium for their care. If you or your spouse are over 65 and qualify for Social Security benefits, currently receive benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, or had Medicare-covered government employment, you will likely not pay a premium for Medicare Part A. Some younger people with disabilities or life-threatening diseases, such as End-Stage Renal Failure (ESRD), may also qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A.
Medicare Part B—Medical Insurance
Medicare Part B is designed to cover medical needs that do not involve the hospital and are considered medically necessary as defined by the federal and state governments. These could include various services, such as:
- Preventive care, such as doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and vaccines
- Diagnostic services from your primary doctor or from specialists
- “Durable Medical Equipment,” such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and many other devices
- Mental health care
- Ambulance services
Take Note—You May Need to Sign Up for Both Medicare Parts A and B
Sometimes, people need to sign up for both Medicare Part A and Part B. The following are instances in which you should sign up for both parts:
- You aren’t getting or don’t qualify for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
- You qualify for Medicare because you have ESRD.
- You live in Puerto Rico and want Part B. (You must already have Part A to apply.)
Make sure you do your research and fully understand the difference between Medicare A and B before you start the enrollment process.
Are There Alternatives to Medicare Parts A and B?
Yes. If you are still working, you could stay on your employer’s insurance plan. However, be aware that you may pay a penalty if you later enroll in Medicare outside of your enrollment period. Or, if you want Medicare benefits but need more flexibility than Parts A and B provide, you could opt for the next letter of the alphabet: Medicare Part C, known as Medicare Advantage.
Medicare Part C plans are offered by private insurance companies in accordance with federal guidelines. Seniors that purchase Medicare Advantage are still enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, but they also have more coverage options⃰. Those options depend on the plan. For instance, some Medicare Part C plans may offer you dental or vision care, while others expand your prescription drug coverage.
HealthMarkets and Medicare
If you’re interested in what Medicare Advantage plans have to offer, give us a call. One of our thousands of licensed insurance agents can talk you through the differences between Medicare A and B, and an agent can find a Medicare plan that works for you. Give us a call today at (800) 488-7621
or search for a local agent.