Social Security 101: Exactly What Is Medicare?


Question: I will be turning 65, just what is Medicare? (L. Del Monte, Greenacres) 

Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people 65+. You may also qualify if you have permanent kidney failure or receive disability benefits. 

Parts A and B 

Sign up for Medicare through Social Security. You can sign up for Part A only, or both Part A and B. 

Part A (hospital insurance) 

Part A helps pay for inpatient care at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and hospice. It also covers some outpatient home health care. Part A is free if you worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. You may also be eligible because of your current or former spouse’s work. 

Part B (medical insurance) 

Part B helps cover services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. (The exact premium depends on your income level: find out more at 

Parts C and D 

Private companies run Parts C and D. The federal government approves each plan. Costs and coverage types vary by provider. 

Part C (Medicare Advantage) 

Part C is known as Medicare Advantage. It’s an alternative to Parts A and B that bundles several coverage types, including Parts A, B, and usually D. It may also include vision, hearing, and dental insurance. You must sign up for Part A or Part B before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Part D (prescription drug coverage) 

Part D helps cover prescription drug costs. You must sign up for Part A or Part B before enrolling in Part D.