Medicare is the federal medical insurance plan for individuals age 65 and over and for certain people under age 65 with disabilities. Older adults are eligible to apply for Medicare during the six-month window around their 65th birthday (called an “initial enrollment period”). The “open enrollment period” that occurs every year between October and December is when current Medicare beneficiaries – meaning people who’ve already signed up – can select among private insurance options for their coverage.

There are two pathways into Medicare, one that is staying in “Traditional Medicare” where the federal government pays your healthcare bills directly and “Medicare Advantage” where a private insurance company handles your Medicare.

  • Medicare Part A covers hospital stays.

  • Medicare Part B covers medical services including doctor visits, outpatient procedures and lab work.

  • Medicare Part C is a managed care plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Part C is different than a supplemental plan, referred to as MediSupp or Medigap, which fills in the gaps that traditional Medicare does not cover.

  • Medicare Part D covers prescription medications, (think “D” for drug coverage). Medicare Advantage and Medigap Part D plans are available through different sources, and are regulated by each state, and can vary in cost and coverage.  

Here are two good resources:

What to know about Medicare open enrollment period and Medicare coverage options.

Contact a local counselor to help you determine the best plan for your needs.  Many consultations are free. Locate a local advisor in your area here: