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The 4 Parts of Medicare and Why They Matter

The 4 Parts of Medicare and Why They Matter

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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.

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