Medicare health care may mean several different things. It can refer to the whole Medicare system, which for most people means having access to hospital care, doctor care, and prescription drug benefits. It more accurately refers to Medicare Part B, often called Medicare medical. There are a few other definitions that might apply as well.
The US government offers participation in the Medicare program to citizens or permanent residents who qualify by age, work history, or disability. Standard age, without a disability, is 65, though this might change in the future. Medicare comes in parts, and most people will qualify for free coverage in Medicare Part A, though the few that do not can pay for this coverage. Part A covers some of the costs associated with hospitalization, though it does not cover them all and has limits on the number of days a person can be hospitalized.
What is often considered Medicare health care is Medicare Part B. This part of the system does cost some money per month, but prices are much lower than 65 year olds would pay for private health insurance. Medicare Part B covers approximately 80% after deductibles of routine health care as might be given on an outpatient visit to doctors or clinics.
Medicare health care may get confusing because people can elect to purchase typically more expensive private plans called Medicare Advantage. Alternately, they may participate in plans called Medigap that change the amount of money a person might need to pay when they get healthcare. These plans usually cost more than Medicare Part B alone, but they may provide additional Part A and Part B coverage. Some Medicare Advantage Plans also pay prescription drug benefits, which are part of Medicare Part D.
A person doesn’t have to participate in Medicare health care of the Advantage or Medigap form, but these plans may give greater coverage than that allowed by Part B. Some give lower coverage, so it’s very important to read details of any plan carefully. Choosing an additional plan can be difficult, and it does mean the person is constrained to the benefits offered by that plan, instead of those offered by Medicare health care.
When Medicare health care refers to the entire system and all of its parts, it’s important to note that people signing up have to choose a Part D plan. The only exception to this is when people buy Medicare Advantage. If the Advantage plan covers prescription drugs, no additional sign-up is necessary. People can change their minds each year, selecting different levels of coverage during open enrollment.
One definition of Medicare health care that has been bandied about since the late 2000s is attached to the idea of providing some form of universal health coverage. Many people have proposed that the most sensible way to achieve this is by allowing all people to purchase Medicare instead of imposing an age limit. The idea has not met with favor in most cases, and is especially unpopular among private insurers.