Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to retired individuals, regardless of their medical condition. Below are some basic facts about Medicare you should know.

What does Medicare cover?
Medicare coverage consists of two parts--Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). A third part, Medicare Part C (Medicare+Choice) is a program that allows you to choose from several types of health-care plans.

Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
Generally known as hospital insurance, Part A covers services associated with inpatient hospital care (i.e., the costs associated with an overnight stay in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or psychiatric hospital, such as charges for the hospital room, meals, and nursing services). Part A also covers hospice care and home health care.

Medicare Part B (medical insurance)
Generally known as medical insurance, Part B covers other medical care. Physician care--whether it was received while you were an inpatient at a hospital, at a doctor's office, or as an outpatient at a hospital or other health-care facility--is covered under Part B. Also covered are laboratory tests, physical therapy or rehabilitation services, and ambulance service.

Medicare Part C (Medicare+Choice)
The 1997 Balanced Budget Act expanded the kinds of private health-care plans that may offer Medicare benefits to include managed care plans, medical savings accounts, and private fee-for-service plans. The new Medicare Part C programs are in addition to the fee-for-service options available under Medicare Parts A and B.

Are you eligible for Medicare?
Most people become eligible for Medicare upon reaching age 65 and becoming eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. In addition, you may be eligible if you are disabled or have end-stage renal disease.

Who administers the Medicare program?
The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has overall responsibility for administering the Medicare program. Although the Social Security Administration processes Medicare applications and claims, the HCFA sets standards and policies.

However, as a beneficiary, you deal mostly with the private insurance companies that actually handle the claims on the local level for individuals receiving Medicare coverage. Insurance companies handling Medicare Part A claims are called Medicare intermediaries, and insurance companies handling Part B claims are called Medicare carriers. Managed care plans handle Part C claims. Although the same private insurance company may handle both Part A and Part B claims, Part A and Part B are very different in regard to administration (e.g., different deductibles and co-payment requirements). There is virtually no overlap; it is as if you have two separate health insurance policies.

How do you sign up for Medicare?
Any individual who is receiving Social Security benefits will automatically be enrolled in Medicare at age 65 when he or she becomes eligible. If you are not receiving Social Security benefits prior to age 65, you will be automatically enrolled when you apply for benefits at age 65. However, if you decide to delay retirement until after age 65, remember to enroll in Medicare at age 65 anyway, because your enrollment won't be automatic. Individuals who will be automatically enrolled in Medicare will receive notification by mail from the Social Security Administration, usually three months before their 65th birthday.

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Please Note: The information contained in this Web site is provided solely as a source of general  information and resource.  It is a not a statement of contract and coverage may not apply in all areas or circumstances.  For a complete description of coverages, always read the insurance policy, including all endorsements.