Medicare Health Insurance Coverage
Do you need help understanding Medicare benefits?
Medicare currently provides health insurance coverage to those who are 65 or older, as well as certain individuals with disabilities. Originally, it consisted of Parts A and B (hospital insurance and medical insurance), but it has expanded down the alphabet to include private health insurance options (Part C Medicare Advantage Plans), and more comprehensive prescription drug coverage (Part D).
The Web offers extensive information on Medicare, but the sites below offer the best information relating to basic coverage issues, benefits offered, how to enroll, how to choose your options and how to compare plans.
Official Medicare Sites
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The official U.S. government Medicare site offers an extensive collection of resources. The home page includes commonly accessed resources and an especially useful section of search tools. Search tools allow you to compare Medicare prescription drug plans, Medigap (Medicare supplement insurance) and health plan policies, hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and dialysis facilities. You can link to the Medicare Options Compare tool (enter your Medicare number for a personalized search, or enter your zip code, age range and health status for a general search), Medigap tool (search policies for your area), and the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder. “Medicare and You 2009” is a 128-page PDF that includes a summary of Medicare benefits, rights and protections. You can also study plans by state and read user-submitted reviews and stories.
MyMedicare is the official government secure on-line service for accessing your Medicare information. In order to use the service, you must be a registered user (requires a Medicare number). Users have access to personalized information regarding Medicare benefits and services.
The American Association of Retired PersonsInsurance and Medicare page features current news on health care reform issues and Medicare developments.
A Medicare and Medicaid Guides box includes expansive information: current rates, a getting started guide, education on individual insurance, the differences between Medicare A and B (and what they cover and what you pay), what doctors can charge under Medicare, and more. The “Choose the Right Medicare Plan for You” article includes four steps to help you decide between plans. “Compare Medicare Plans” features a chart of the key differences among the plans.
“Tapping Supplemental Insurance” offers a useful overview of the Medigap insurance plans that supplement Medicare. “Compare Medigap Plans” is a listing of the 12 Medigap plans (A to L) and their specific benefits, while “Compare Medigap Coverage” is the same list reorganized by benefit.
Kaiser Family Foundation
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan private foundation focused on U.S. and global health care issues that develops and runs its own research and communications programs. Kaiser’s site does not include as many tools as some of the others, but it does offer a wealth of guides and data.
A good introduction to Medicare is provided in the “Talking About Medicare: Your Guide to Understanding the Program, 2009” article in the People on Medicare section of the site.
Medicare Rights Center
The Medicare Rights Centeris a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that offers counseling, advocacy, and educational programs. The Medical Interactive Tool prompts you to select your state in the top right-hand corner. You can then search by topic or read a 10-section Medicare introduction.
You can sign up for several newsletters including a weekly E-mail with health tips, Medicare coverage advice, and health plan reminders; Medicare Watch, a biweekly one-page newsletter on policy news and changes in Medicare benefits and rules; and Asclepios, an electronic newsletter that alerts readers to the latest Medicare policy and advocacy developments.
The site also offers a glossary.