What are the parts of Medicare?

Learning about Medicare can be overwhelming. Here are some basic facts to get you started.

When I first started my career in the Medicare world, I was overwhelmed with all the new information I had to learn. I found that breaking it down into bite sized pieces made it easier to understand. It took a lot of time (and patience), but now I have the knowledge to be the best at my job. Here are some basic bites that helped me digest Medicare.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, people under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with end-stage renal disease. Medicare is partly funded by payroll taxes from most employers, employees and all people who are self-employed. The Medicare program offers basic coverage to help pay for things like doctor visits, hospital stays and surgeries.

What’s this ABCD thing?

Medicare is broken out into four parts. Parts A, B, C and D. Parts A and B are known as Original Medicare. This is the most basic coverage you can get. Parts C and D are available through private health plans. They’re both ways to enhance your health care coverage if you want more than what Original Medicare offers.

Medicare Parts A, B, C and D explained:

    • Part A (hospital coverage): Covers things like inpatient hospital stays, home health care and skilled nursing facility care.
    • Part B (medical coverage): Covers things like doctor visits, outpatient services and diagnostic screenings.
    • Part C (Medicare Advantage):  Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private health insurance companies. When you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare. The difference is the plan covers and pays for your services instead of Original Medicare. These plans must provide the same coverage as Original Medicare (so you’re not missing out on anything) and can also offer extra benefits.
  • Part D (prescription drug coverage): Only offered through private health plans.

When can I get Medicare?

You’re eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. There are a few different times you can enroll throughout the year. These are known as enrollment periods. Check out the visual below to see when you can enroll, or visit medicare.gov for more information.

[Click on the image to see the full version]


Just like Medicare is broken down into separate parts, it’s helpful to break down this information when you’re first learning about it. Ready to chomp into more bites? Check out this introduction to Medicare basics video.