Medicare, A Simple Explanation

October 24, 2019 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: July 16, 2021

Social Security and Medicare are both programs that are household names, but do you know the true difference? Both programs help safeguard millions of Americans as well as improve the quality of life for their family and friends. While Social Security offers retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, Medicare provides health insurance.

Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people age 65 or older and younger people receiving Social Security disability benefits. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it doesn’t cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care.

When you first enroll in Medicare and during certain times of the year, you can choose how you get your Medicare coverage. There are 2 main ways to get Medicare:

Original Medicare

Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). If you want drug coverage, you can join a separate Part D plan. To help pay your out-of-pocket costs in Original Medicare (like your deductible and 20% coinsurance), you can also shop for and buy supplemental coverage. Examples include coverage from a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy, or from a former employer or union.

Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C)

Medicare Advantage is an “all in one” alternative to Original Medicare. These “bundled” plans include Part A, Part B, and usually Part D.  Part C plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare.  They also may offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover — like vision, hearing, dental, and more.

If you can’t afford to pay your Medicare premiums and other medical costs, you may be able to get help from your state. States offer programs for people eligible for or entitled to Medicare who have low income. Some programs may pay for Medicare premiums and some pay Medicare deductibles and coinsurance. To qualify, you must have limited income and resources.

You can learn more about Medicare, including how to apply for Medicare and get a replacement Medicare card on our website.

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About the Author

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner

Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner


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  8. Mubashir T.

    Recent notifications were sent to Medicare recipients regarding part D drug deductions from their social security. What do these mean when they are covered by Medicare Advantage Part C?

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  10. Kenneth S.

    do we have medicare I keep seeing if ours get cut and soon

    • V.V.

      Hi Kenneth, thanks for using our blog. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits and you’re asking about Medicare, if you live in one of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, we’ll automatically enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B.

      If you’re not getting benefits, you can use our online application to sign up for Medicare. You can sign up for Medicare even if you don’t plan to retire at age 65.

      If you need additional assistance, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

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