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Medicare Basics

Most Americans join Medicare when they turn 65, but it’s also available to younger people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

What Is Medicare?

Medicare is a national health insurance program administered by the federal government. It is not part of the health insurance marketplace. Medicare is made up of four parts. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) are considered Original Medicare. Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) and Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans) are offered by insurance companies and private companies that contract with Medicare.

Original Medicare

Offered by the Federal Government

Part A – Hospital Insurance

Part A helps pay for:

  • Inpatient hospital care
  • Skilled nursing facility care after a hospital stay
  • Some home health care and hospice services

Medical Insurance

Part B – Medical Insurance

Part B helps pay for:

  • Doctor's office visits and services
  • Most outpatient care
  • Home health care
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Many preventive services

More Medicare Coverage

Additional Medicare Coverage Offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

You can also choose to enroll in:

Hospital, Medical, and Prescription Drug Insurance

Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans

Part C combines what’s covered by Part A and Part B and adds benefits, often including prescription drug coverage (Part D)

Part C always covers you for all benefits included in Parts A and B.

May include coverage for:
  • Dental, hearing and/or vision services
  • Health, wellness and fitness programs

Part C plans may also include:

  • Options that may or may not include prescription drug coverage
  • Provider networks to help manage costs
  • A Part B Premium Buy-down benefit that reduces the Medicare Part B premium that you pay to the Social Security Administration
  • A preloaded flexible spending card to help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for covered dental, vision, and hearing services

If you enroll in a Blue Cross Medicare AdvantageSM plan, you cannot also enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan.

Or, you can choose to enroll in:

Prescription Drug Insurance

Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage

Part D helps cover costs of prescription drugs with copays or coinsurance.

Or, you can choose to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan on its own or paired with a Part D plan:

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans

Helps with costs that Medicare Parts A and B do not cover

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans help to pay for:
  • Coinsurance
  • Copays
  • Deductibles

Help Me Choose a Plan

If you're not sure what plan you need, answer a few questions to help you decide.

Now that you’ve picked a plan, it’s time to enroll.

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Last Updated: Sept. 11, 2023