Medicare Answer Team

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding and Enrolling in the Program

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage for individuals who are 65 years of age or older, as well as some younger individuals with certain disabilities. It is an important program that provides access to healthcare for millions of Americans, but it can be complex and difficult to understand. This article is designed to provide a beginner’s guide to understanding and enrolling in Medicare, including information on the different parts of the program, the enrollment process, and the eligibility requirements.

Understanding the Different Parts of Medicare

Original Medicare

Original Medicare is the traditional fee-for-service program that is made up of two parts: Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Part A, also known as Medicare hospital coverage, covers inpatient hospital care, hospice care, and some home healthcare services. This includes hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, and hospice care. Part A also covers some home health care services, but only if the individual is homebound and the services are considered medically necessary. Part B covers doctor services, preventive services, and some outpatient care. This includes doctor visits, preventive screenings, and lab tests. Together, these two parts cover a wide range of healthcare services.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, are an alternative to Original Medicare. These plans are offered by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare to provide the same benefits as Original Medicare, but with additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage, vision, and dental. Medicare Advantage plans also have different cost-sharing and network requirements than Original Medicare. These plans can include HMOs, PPOs, and PFFS (Private Fee-for-Service) plans. They must also cover all the services that Original Medicare covers, but some plans may offer additional benefits such as hearing, vision, and dental coverage. Additionally, Medicare Advantage plans have an out-of-pocket maximum which limits the amount an individual will pay for covered services in a year.

Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medicare Supplement Insurance, also known as Medigap, is a type of private insurance that helps to fill in the “gaps” in Original Medicare. These policies help pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. There are ten different standard Medigap plans available, each with its own set of benefits. These plans, which are standardized by the federal government, are sold by private insurance companies and help pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare, such as copays, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, also known as Medicare Part D, is a program that helps people with Medicare pay for prescription drugs. It is available to anyone who has Medicare Part A or Part B, and can be obtained through a Medicare Advantage plan or through a stand-alone prescription drug plan also known as Medicare Plan D. It’s important to note that not all prescription drugs are covered by Medicare, so it’s important to check the formulary (list of covered drugs) of any plan you’re considering to make sure the drugs you take are covered.

Medicare Answer Team

Enrolling in Medicare

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Medicare, an individual must be 65 years of age or older or have a permanent disability. Additionally, individuals who have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for at least 24 months are also eligible. It’s important to note that there are certain Medicare eligibility requirements that must be met before an individual can enroll in the program.

If you are already receiving benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) when you turn 65, you will automatically be enrolled in Original Medicare. However, if you are not receiving benefits, you will need to actively enroll in the program. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is the time when you first become eligible for Medicare. For most people, the IEP begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after the month of your 65th birthday. During this time, you can enroll in Original Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan, or a Medicare Prescription Drug plan.

It’s important to note that there are also special enrollment periods (SEP) for individuals who miss their initial enrollment period, has a change in their circumstances, or have certain types of employer coverage. It’s always good to check with the Social Security Administration or consult an insurance agent to find out your options and the specific timing of enrollment.

In addition to the enrollment periods, it’s also important to be aware of the annual open enrollment period (AEP) which occurs from October 15th to December 7th of each year. During this time, individuals can make changes to their coverage, switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, or change their prescription drug coverage.


Navigating Medicare can be a daunting task, but with the right information and guidance, it can be a valuable resource for accessing healthcare. This article has provided a beginner’s guide to understanding and enrolling in Medicare, including information on the different parts of the program, the enrollment process, and the eligibility requirements. It’s important to note that the program is subject to change and it’s always good to consult the official website, or an insurance agent, to make sure you have the most up-to-date information and to make sure you’re making the best choices for your specific needs. With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions about your healthcare coverage and ensure that you have the coverage you need as you age.

If you still have questions or need help with your Medicare application, don’t hesitate to contact our Medicare Answer Team. They can help you understand your options, provide you with the best plan for your needs, and guide you through the enrollment process. Additionally, you can also talk to one of our agents and they will help you find the best Medicare plan that fits your needs and budget. Don’t wait, contact us today and let us help you secure your healthcare coverage.