Medicare Basics

Knowing how Medicare works is the first step to determining what type of coverage you need and if you will benefit from a Medicare Supplement insurance plan.

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Medicare & It's Many Parts

Medicare coverage is separated into four different parts named after the letters A-D. Within these four parts, are two main types of Medicare coverage: Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

Understanding Medicare Supplement insurance

Original Medicare

Parts A & B compose one of the two main types of Medicare coverage: Original Medicare. Original Medicare can be supplemented using Part D insurance or Medicare Supplement insurance.

Part A (Hospital Insurance)

  • Inpatient hospital care &
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Home healthcare & hospice
  • Ambulance services

Part B (Medical Insurance)

  • Outpatient services
  • Medical testing & lab services
  • Doctor visits & preventative care
  • Durable medical equipment & supplies


Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is the second type of main coverage. It's provided by private insurance companies and cannot be combined with Medicare Supplement insurance.

Part C

  • Includes all benefits and services covered under Parts A & B
  • May include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D)
  • May include extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing services
  • Typically requires you to use a healthcare provider within a network
  • Plans are not guaranteed renewable

Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D is an add-on plan that provides prescription drug coverage. It's sold by private insurance companies.

Part D

  • Helps cover the cost of outpatient prescription drugs
  • Can be purchased as a standalone plan if you have Medicare Part A and/or Part B
  • May help lower your prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future
  • Provided by private insurance companies

Medicare Supplement continued

Medicare Supplement Insurance

Sometimes referred to as Medigap, Medicare Supplement insurance is an add-on plan that helps pay for costs not covered by Original Medicare. It's sold by private insurance companies and cannot be combined with Medicare Advantage.


  • Helps cover out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare
  • Must have Parts A & B to purchase
  • Plans are guaranteed renewable as long as you pay your premiums
  • Accepted by all healthcare providers that accept Medicare
Learn more about Medicare Supplement insurance here.

Enrolling in Medicare

When do I enroll in Medicare?

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is seven months long and includes the month you turn 65 as well as the three months before and after.

For example, if your birthday is in April, you may enroll in Medicare for the first time anytime between January and June.

When can I make changes to my coverage?

Every year, usually between October 15 and December 7, there is an annual open enrollment period. During this time, you can drop, switch or add coverage.

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