Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to retired individuals, regardless of medical condition. Any individual who is receiving Social Security benefits will automatically be enrolled in Medicare at age 65 (age of eligibility). If you are not receiving Social Security benefits prior to age 65, you will be automatically enrolled when you apply for benefits at age 65. If you decide to delay retirement until after age 65, remember to enroll in Medicare at age 65 anyway, because your enrollment won't be automatic. Individuals who will be automatically enrolled will receive notification by mail from the Social Security Administration, usually several months before your 65th birthday. Most people become eligible for Medicare upon reaching age 65 and becoming eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Additionally, you may be eligible if you are disabled or have end-stage renal disease.
Medicare coverage consists of two parts--Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). Medicare Part C (Medicare+Choice) is a program that allows you to choose among several types of health care plans.
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
Generally called "hospital insurance", Part A covers services associated with inpatient hospital care (i.e., the costs associated with an overnight stay in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or psychiatric hospital, such as charges for the hospital room, meals, and nursing services). Part A also covers hospice care and home health care.
Medicare Part B (medical insurance)
Generally called "medical insurance", Part B covers other medical care. Physician care-- whether it was received while you were an inpatient at a hospital, at a doctors office, or as an outpatient at a hospital or other health care facility-- is covered under Part B. Also covered are laboratory tests, and physical therapy or rehabilitation services, and ambulance service.
Medicare Part C (Medicare+Choice)
The 1997 Balanced Budget Act expanded the types of private health care plans that my offer Medicare benefits to include medical savings accounts, managed care plans, and private fee-for-service plans. The new Medicare Part C programs are in addition to the fee-for-service options available under Medicare Parts A and B.
Although Medicare is designed to cover 80% of hospital and medical expenses, it is strongly recommended that a supplement be purchased to cover the expenses not covered by Medicare.