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The way Medicare plans are alphabetized – from "A" to "D" – one might be fooled into thinking that there are but a few options to consider. Unfortunately, deciding which Medicare coverage is right for you is definitely not as easy as a multiple-choice question with a single right answer.
Medicare was designed with the idea that the vast majority of Americans would eventually receive a uniform level of coverage and care once they became eligible. And recipients do receive a basic level of care, but that basic level is riddled with coverage gaps.
To figure out how you can fill those gaps, you'll need to have a basic understanding of the following plans:
Also called "traditional" Medicare, it's the fee-for-service program in which the government pays your health care costs. The coverage includes Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B and allows you to see any doctor anywhere (who accepts Medicare patients).
Medicare Part A helps cover inpatient hospital visit expenses, including a semi-private room, medical tests and doctors' fees. It may pay a portion of skilled nursing expenses and home health services, if ordered by a physician, and often 100 percent of hospice care.
Medicare Advantage plans replace your government coverage with private insurance. These plans cost more but offer more benefits than traditional medicare.
Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage available only through private companies, but any individual who receives Medicare health insurance is eligible. Part D covers both brand name and generic drugs with a short list of exceptions.
Medigap plans offer supplemental benefits sold by private companies to extend traditional medicare. Fourteen plans offer varying combinations of benefits, covering copayments and deductibles and foreign travel emergency expenses, at-home care and preventive care.