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Medicare overview

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Established in 1965—and now overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)—the Medicare program was designed to help our country’s elderly population pay their inpatient and outpatient medical bills. Now, nearly 54 years later, 60.8 million Americans are enrolled in the program, which now covers folks who: 

  • are aged 65 and older
  • are permanently disabled
  • have the end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

The Medicare program is split into four different coverage plans: Parts A, B, C, and D. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Part A covers “inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care.” Medicare Part B covers other medically necessary costs that aren’t covered by Part A, like outpatient physician and physical therapy services as well as other supplies and medical care. Part C, often referred to as Medicare Advantage, is provided by private companies that have partnered up with Medicare to offer all-in-one inpatient and outpatient coverage—sometimes with prescription plans bundled in. And finally, Part D is a prescription drug plan that’s provided by private companies.