By Robin Schmidt
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for Alaska
In July, communities everywhere celebrate our nation’s independence with fireworks, family, and friends. A strong community also creates independence as we help each other recognize our full potential.
Social Security has been helping people maintain a higher quality of life and a level of independence for over 80 years. Medicare has been doing the same for over five decades. Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65. For many older Americans, this is their primary health insurance and without it, they might not enjoy an independent lifestyle.
Medicare can be a little confusing to newcomers so we broke it down into segments. The four parts of Medicare are as easy as A, B, C, and D.
Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and home health care. Most people get Medicare Part A, premium-free, since they worked and paid Social Security taxes.
Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover services from doctors and other outpatient health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. If you do not enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you may have a delay in coverage. Additionally, you may have to pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B.
Part C (Medicare Advantage) allows you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization. This plan includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B, usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, and may include extra benefits and services at an extra cost. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. Monthly premiums may vary depending on the state in which you live, if you have a private insurer, or if you already have a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization
Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Many people pay a premium for Part D. However, people with low income and resources may qualify for Extra Help to pay the premium and deductible. If you don’t enroll in a Medicare drug plan when you’re first eligible, you may pay a late enrollment penalty if you join a plan later. You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage. To see if you qualify for extra help visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.
Will you be age 65 soon? Even if you decide not to retire, you should apply for Medicare. You can apply in less than 10 minutes using our online Medicare application. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare to learn more about applying for Medicare.