Learn the ABCs and Ds of Medicare

We want to help you understand the difference between Medicare Parts A, B, C and D.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for those 65 and older, some younger people with disabilities and for people with end-stage kidney disease. It helps pay their medical expenses. Before turning 65, most people get health insurance through group plans offered by their employer or their spouse’s employer. People who are self-employed or who don’t have health insurance through their job may buy individual policies on their own.

Medicare consists of several plans or “parts”:

  • Parts A and B are often referred to as Original, or Traditional, Medicare. Part A helps pay your hospital bills, and most people have paid for their Part A premiums through payroll taxes while working. Part B helps pay for doctor visits and other medical services, including screenings for heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
  • Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, are Medicare-approved plans offered by private insurance companies. Part C plans are an alternative to Original Medicare. Along with covering doctors and hospitals, they often cover prescription drugs, too.
  • Part D plans are Medicare-approved private plans that help people who have Parts A and B to pay for prescription drugs.

Keep in mind that Medicare doesn’t cover all of your health care costs. Many services (such as routine dental and vision care) are not covered by Medicare. And unless you have additional insurance or qualify for low-income assistance, even with Medicare, you will be paying some premiums, deductibles and copays.