A good day to learn more about Medicare is today's date - The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act is now law. This new Medicare law preserves and strengthens the current Medicare program as described in this booklet. In the near future it will add new medicare prescription drug benefits and health care benefits, and provide extra help to people with lower income. For the latest information about Medicare, visit the medicare education website or call its toll-free number.
Medicare is our country's health insurance program for people age 65 or older. Certain people younger than age 65 can also qualify for Medicare, too, including those who have disabilities and those who have permanent kidney failure. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care.
Medicare is financed by a portion of the payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers. It also is financed in part by monthly premiums deducted from Social Security checks.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the agency in charge of Medicare and the Medicare Education program. But you apply for Medicare at Social Security offices. We can give you general information about the Medicare program.
Medicare has two parts
The two parts of Medicare help pay for different kinds of health care costs.
- Hospital insurance (also called Medicare Part A) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care.
- Medical insurance (also called Medicare Part B) helps pay for doctors' services and many other medical services and supplies that are not covered by hospital insurance.
You can get more information about these programs from the publication, including new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits, Medicare & You (Publication No. CMS-10050). To get a copy, call the toll-free number, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or go to www.medicare.gov on the Internet and click on "Publications."
A word about Medicaid
You may think that Medicaid and Medicare are the same. Actually, they are two different programs. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides hospital and medical coverage for people with low income and little or no resources. Each state has its own rules about who is eligible and what is covered under Medicaid. Some people qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. For more information about the Medicaid program, contact your local medical assistance agency, social services or welfare office.
Who can get Medicare Coverage?
Hospital insurance (Part A)
Most people age 65 or older who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A). You are eligible at age 65 if:
- You receive or are eligible to receive Social Security benefits; or
- You receive or are eligible to receive railroad retirement benefits; or
- You or your spouse (living or deceased, including divorced spouses) worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid.
Medical insurance (Part B)
Anyone who is eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) can enroll in Medicare medical insurance (Part B) by paying a monthly premium.
If you are not eligible for free hospital insurance, you can buy medical insurance, without having to buy hospital insurance, if you are age 65 or older and you are:
- A U.S. citizen or
- A lawfully admitted noncitizen who has lived in the U.S. for at least 5-years.
Signing up for Medicare
When should I apply? If you are already getting Social Security retirement or disability benefits or railroad retirement checks, you will be contacted a few months before you become eligible for Medicare and given the information you need. You will be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B automatically. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you have the option of turning it down. If you are not already getting retirement benefits, you should contact us about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare. You can sign up for Medicare even if you do not plan to retire at age 65.
Once you are enrolled in Medicare, you will receive a red, white and blue Medicare health insurance card showing whether you have Part A, Part B or both. Keep your card in a safe place so you will have it when you need it. If your card is ever lost or stolen, you can apply for a replacement card on the Internet at www.socialsecurity.gov or call Social Security’s toll-free number. You will also receive a Medicare & You (Publication No. CMS-10050) handbook hat describes your Medicare benefits and Medicare plan choices.
For more information on how other health insurance plans work with Medicare, call the Medicare toll-free number 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and ask for the Medicare education publication, Medicare And Other Health Benefits: Your Guide To Who Pays First (Publication No. CMS-02179). Or visit www.medicare.gov on the Internet and click on “Publications.”
Health Related Websites of Interest
Medicare Covers America - is a health information cable television series produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About medicare rx educational benefits. Each TV show gives current information about Medicare benefits, health issues and health resources to help people with Medicare stay and be healthy.