Learn about Medicare

Deciding how and when to enroll in Medicare is one of the most significant decisions you will make about your health care as you move toward retirement. Take time to learn the facts.

Medicare: Only the basics

Four parts of Medicare

What does Medicare cover?

Medicare coverage is divided into four parts. You can choose Medicare Parts A and B (also known as Original Medicare), offering coverage anywhere you live or travel within the U.S. Part C offers coverage within a geographic area, and emergency care in other places in the U.S. Medicare offers limited coverage outside the U.S. Part D is prescription coverage.

Part A

Covers inpatient hospital care when you are admitted overnight or for longer stays. It also covers short, post-hospital rehabilitation stays in nursing homes and hospice care. It does not, however, pay for long-term care in a retirement or nursing home.

Part B

Covers doctor visits and outpatient care, including many preventive care services as well as rehabilitation and therapy treatment. 

Part C

Known as Medicare Advantage, Part C is a private-insurance alternative to Parts A and B.

Part D

The optional prescription drug coverage through a private insurance company. Learn more about Part D.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your important Medicare questions

1. Am I eligible right now? You become eligible when you reach 65 years old. (People with some disabilities can apply earlier.) The relationship between Social Security and Medicare may be confusing. You do not have to sign up for your Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits at the same time. And you can enroll in Medicare either through your local Social Security office or at medicare.gov. If you work past age 65 and have employer health insurance, you may postpone enrolling in Medicare.

Here's an online questionnaire from Medicare to help you confirm that you are eligible.

2. When can I enroll in Medicare and what are the deadlines? You can enroll as early as three months before you turn 65. Review your open enrollment period because there are deadlines and penalties that affect you.

3. How do I enroll? When you sign up for Social Security, Medicare automatically enrolls you in Part A, but you must sign up for Part B, if you want it. If you are 65 and haven't signed up for Social Security but want Medicare benefits, you must sign up for them.

Visit the enrollment section of Medicare.gov to sign up.

4. What are the costs of Medicare and can I afford them? Medicare Part A is free for most people. You pay for Part B, if you choose it. Learn more about how much you will pay for the Part B premium. You pay for Part D with a monthly premium and your plan may include out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments, coinsurance and annual deductibles.

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