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Original Medicare is just that: the components of the Medicare program signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 30, 1965.
Sometimes called "traditional Medicare," Original Medicare is the fee-for-service program in which the government pays directly for the health care costs you incur. The coverage allows you to see a doctor anywhere in the country (as long as the doctor accepts Medicare).
When it became law, Medicare consisted of two parts – and they're the same two parts providing coverage to millions of Americans 45 years later:
Medicare Part A is called "hospital insurance" because it provides broad coverage of inpatient expenses, including not only hospital visits, but inpatient care in skilled nursing facilities, hospice care and home health services. The coverage is typically free if you're 65 and you and your spouse paid Medicare taxes during the years you worked.
While Part A basically covers inpatient services, Medicare Part B is also referred to as "medical insurance" because it covers medically necessary services – including physician and nursing fees, x-rays, diagnostic tests, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, renal dialysis, and some vaccinations – and also preventive services. Enrollees pay a monthly Part B premium, but your other costs depend on whether you're enrolled in Medicare Part A, or in another Medicare health plan.
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.