What Are The Parts of Medicare?
Medicare has 4 parts, each represented by letters: Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.
Medicare Part A
Part A covers: Inpatient hospital care and some limited home health care, limited nursing home care
Medicare Part B
Part B covers: Outpatient care such as doctor’s visits and some limited home health care
Medicare Part C
Part C is unique in that it is also called an advantage plan (Medicare Advantage “MA” plan), which allows the government to contract with a private company to deliver Medicare benefits.
Medicare Part D
Part D covers: Prescription drug coverage (Bunis 2021).
You can receive Part D benefits in two ways:
- A separate drug plan
- An MA “Part C” plan that includes drug coverage
You have to have Parts A & B to join an MA plan or a separate drug plan. Not all MA plans cover prescription medications (Medicare 2021b).
Understanding the Parts of Medicare
What is Meant by Part C or Medicare Advantage vs. Original Medicare?
Original Medicare is the traditional way to receive benefits. The government pays a provider directly for services in Parts A and B (Center for Medicare Rights 2021). Most Americans use Original Medicare and most providers accept it.
The other choice is to package benefits together with a Medicare Advantage Plan (MA) which is also called Part C.
You can think of an MA plan (Part C) as a way to combine the parts of Medicare into one plan (Bunis 2020).
Those in an advantage plan still receive the services in Part A & Part B, but may be offered additional services not covered by regular Medicare such as dental benefits (Center for Medicare Rights 2021).
You can also get Part D, drug coverage, through an MA plan, or as a separate benefit (Center for Medicare Rights 2021). Not all Medicare Advantage plans cover drugs.
Most Medicare Advantage plans do have drug coverage, but you might be allowed to join a standalone drug plan if your MA plan does not cover drugs. You cannot join a standalone drug plan if your MA plan already offers prescription coverage (EHealth 2021).
If you have an MA plan, you still pay a premium for Part B (and Part A if you don’t get it for free).
The MA plans have to place a limit on out-of-pocket costs for A & B (Center for Medicare Rights 2021).
Every Medicare Advantage plan is different.
Kathleen Downes (she/her/hers) is a licensed social worker and activist for disability justice from Floral Park, New York. She was born with cerebral palsy and enjoys doing advocacy work for people with all types of disabilities. She volunteers to create educational programs for families of disabled youth through a small non-profit in the New York area.A two time graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she holds a master’s in social work and a bachelor’s in community health and rehabilitation studies.She is particularly passionate about long term care policy and strengthening the Medicaid program.Kathleen blogs at The Squeaky Wheelchair and has been featured in The Huffington Post and in the online publication of the Women’s Media Center.In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, spending time with her dog, taking seated dance classes, and learning new things.