Medicare, A Simple Explanation

October 24, 2019 • By

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


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  2. Shelly Rush

    Are you able to collect social security disability AND I think it’s called SSI together?

  3. Don Waterbury

    Thank you Ms. Bogle for this information. I believe it helps everyone.

  4. Mahendra Rathore

    This is very informative piece. Love it. Short, simple and concise. Great Job!! I hope sometime you would do a similar piece on the chart of the Part A, B, C, D and other Medicate Supplemental plans. Thank you!

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Thanks for your feedback, Mahendra! We value your opinion of us and look forward to many more years of serving you in the future.

  5. Norma Sentmanat

    Hi, I do not remember if I have Medicare A or B. I’m 66 years old and still working full time with full benefits, and would like to know if it covers ultrasounds and stress tests done at the cardiologist’s office . Thank you!

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Norma. If you need a replacement Medicare card or immediate proof that you have Medicare, you can take care of both online by setting up a my Social Security account. For information on what Parts A and B cover, visit here. We hope this helps.

  6. Raul A Diaz Trinidad

    I’m a federal employee retired under CSRS and you never send me my medicare card. I kept my health medical plan and when the system ask me if I have a medical health plan I filled the blanks with the medical plan that I have it wont let me continue. I need to know how can you send me my medicare card? Im 70 years old.

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Raul. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  7. Felix E.Cerpa F. and Marlene Cerpa.

    The Medicare should cover for Dental gum surgery for any tooth in bad condition to be pool it out and be replaced. Do not to be an emergency for Medicare covers. I want to be very clear is a dental surgery.

    • Luis A., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Felix. Medicare will pay for dental services in specific cases. To learn more, visit here. If you have additional questions, you can contact your local Medicare SHIP (State Health Insurance Program Coordinator). We hope this helps.


    Thank you for the clear and easy to understand information.

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