More than 62.2 million people over the age of sixty-five in the United States receive their healthcare through Medicare. Over the years the program has been expanded to cover additional services.
There are four main ‘Parts’ of the program, some of which have mandatory enrolment, while others can be purchased to provide additional coverage. The four plans are most commonly referred to as Parts A, B, C and D, with each part covering a different aspect of healthcare. Medicare Parts A and B are overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), while Medicare Parts C and D are administrated by private insurance companies.
Parts A, B, and D are usually the parts discussed most, as C is an optional extra. To receive Medicare support, recipients must be: aged 65 or older; or disabled; or suffering from End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
Medicare Part A – inpatient care
Part A relates to hospital inpatient services, covering the cost of hospital, nursing facility and hospice services. This coverage will typically also include any supplies and pharmaceuticals required while the patient is in hospital. It can even cover physical and occupational therapy required for housebound patients, and counselling for the terminally ill.
Medicare Part B – outpatient care
Part B is for outpatient coverage, meaning it is utilised for services administered outside of the hospital. Home visits from a medical professional, testing services and some equipment costs can be covered, as can the use of an ambulance in emergencies.
However, Part B does not include long-term care, also known as custodial care. This is when patients need support for daily living, like bathing or dressing.
Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage
To supplement their Medicare coverage, around a third of enrollees purchase Medicare Advantage Plans which include dental, hearing and vision services. These healthcare aspects are not usually covered in Parts A or B.
In 2021, around twenty-six million people had access to Medicare Advantage plans, up from twenty-four million the year prior. Over the last ten years the figure has more than doubled. Progressive politicians have been pusing for Part C to become part of the standard Medicare support network. The aspects covered in Part C are especially important for the age group targeted by Medicare.
Medicare Part D – prescription Drugs
The last of the Medicare plans relates specifically to pharmaceutical prices. Drug prices in the US are notoriously expensive, but Part D provides some support.
However, Part D is provided only with private insurance companies; the government never directly supplies it despite contracts being signed with the federal government. Recipients must choose to enrol in a private Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) to receive the discounts.