What does Medicare cover? It’s a common, but also complex question. Medicare has 2 basic parts, Part A, which is known as hospital insurance (we’ll define that in a minute) and Part B, which covers services, such as lab tests, doctor visits, etc. Part A and Part B together are known as Original Medicare.
Medicare recipients also have the choice to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) which is delivered by an HMO. This coverage differs from Original Medicare not only in the delivery of benefits but also what is covered. There are many different plan options under Medicare Advantage and you can learn more at medicare.gov
When it comes to Original Medicare, coverage works like this:
Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. To sum it up, Part A covers:
- Hospital care
- Skilled nursing facility care or Nursing home care (as long as custodial care isn’t the only care you need)*
- Hospice (provided by a Medicare approved program, either at home or an inpatient setting)**
- Home health services
**Keep a look out for a blog post on Medicare Coverage of Hospice Services coming soon.
*This is where some of the complexity of Medicare comes in. When a patient is sent to a nursing home/rehab facility for rehabilitation, Medicare covers your stay on a short term basis. Medicare does not pay for “long term care” or “custodial care”. If needed, Medicare will cover your rehab stay for 20 days at 100%, on day 21 (should you still need to be there) you will be responsible for a 20% copay. The maximum amount of rehab time Medicare will pay for is 100 days, so from day 21 to day 100 you would pay 20% of the cost. If you or a loved one are in a situation where you have to be in a rehab facility for more than 20 days, you should definitely be thinking about your options and what your plan for long term care is. At that point you should have already had a meeting with the discharge planner if not an interdisciplinary team at the facility.
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Part B covers 2 types of services:
- Medically necessary services: Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.
- Preventive services: Health care to prevent illness (like the flu) or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.
Preventive services include screenings such as, mammograms, colonoscopies, bone mass measurements, and other cancer screenings, if your doctor thinks you are at risk. You also get a Welcome to Medicare visit within your first 12 months of enrollment, during this visit you can talk to your doctor about screenings and review your medical history. In addition to the Welcome to Medicare visit, you are entitled to an Annual Wellness visit. You pay nothing for most preventive services if you get the services from a health care provider who accepts assignment.
Part B covers things like:
- Ambulance services
- Durable medical equipment (DME)
- Mental health
- Partial hospitalization
- Getting a second opinion before surgery
- Limited outpatient prescription drugs
The fourth part of Medicare is Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. With Original Medicare prescriptions are not paid for, therefore you should obtain a separate Medicare Part D plan.
To learn more about all the parts of Medicare and to explore your options, such as, Original Medicare (Part A & B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) visit https://www.medicare.gov/ or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
You can also contact your local SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) through you County- find their contact information at: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html or call the SHIP Information Center at 1-800-792-8820.