There are 4 parts of Medicare: Parts A, B, C, and D.
Part A: Basic hospital insurance
Part B: Basic medical insurance
Part C: Medicare Advantage plans
Part D: Medicare prescription drug plans
More info: What are the different parts of Medicare?
Your first chance to sign up for Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B) will be around your 65th birthday. When you sign up for Original Medicare, you are enrolling in basic hospital and medical coverage only.
If you are under 65, you may qualify if you have a disability or serious disease such as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
After you enroll in Original Medicare, you can apply for optional Medicare health and drug coverage that may offer extra benefits. Plans that provide this coverage are called Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D). Your first chance to sign up for these plans also is around your 65th birthday.
If you do not enroll in a Medicare plan around your 65th birthday, there are designated periods when you can enroll each year.
More info: When can you sign up for Medicare?
Original Medicare (Parts A & B) provides some dental and vision coverage, but only in limited situations. If you need more comprehensive dental and vision coverage, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes these benefits.
Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) and Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) both supplement Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B), but they do so in very different ways.
Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative way to get your Original Medicare benefits, plus in certain cases, additional coverage for dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage.
Medicare Supplement insurance is a type of insurance coverage that helps you pay for your Original Medicare co-payments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs.
Both types of health plans are sold by private companies and require you to be enrolled in Original Medicare before you are eligible for coverage.
You cannot have a Medicare Supplement insurance policy and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time.
There are two ways to get prescription drug coverage through the Medicare program. You can either enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) that includes drug coverage or enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D).
Both Part C plans and Part D plans are provided by private health insurers and are regulated by the federal government.
Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B) does not provide prescription drug coverage.
More info: How do you get Medicare drug coverage?
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