What is Original Medicare?
- Original Medicare was signed into law on July 30, 1965.
- Original Medicare consists of Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance).
- Part A provides broad coverage of inpatient expenses.
- Part B 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.
Birth of Medicare
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).
Medicare Part A – hospital insurance
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 or your spouse paid Medicare taxes during the years you worked.
Medicare Part B – medical insurance
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.
Medicare beneficiaries have the option to enroll in Medicare Advantage instead of Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans combine Parts A and B into one private plan, and usually incorporate prescription drug coverage as well.
But Medicare Advantage enrollees are confined to their plan’s provider network, rather than having access to doctors and hospitals all across the country. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries select Original Medicare, but about a third pick Medicare Advantage plans, and that percentage has been increasing with time.