Medicare has four basic parts: A, B, C, and D. Taken together, Parts A (hospital care), B (doctors, medical procedures, equipment), and D (prescription drugs) provide basic coverage for Americans 65 and older. What's relevant for this article is what these parts don't cover, such as deductibles, co-pays, and other medical expenses that could wipe out your savings should you become seriously ill. That's where Part C comes in. Also known as Medicare Advantage, it's one of two ways to protect against the potentially high cost of an accident or illness. The other option is Medicare Supplement Insurance, also called Medigap coverage. Here's a look at the two options.
*Pre-existing conditions are generally health conditions that existed before the start of a policy. They may limit coverage, be excluded from coverage, or even prevent you from being approved for a policy; however, the exact definition and relevant limitations or exclusions of coverage will vary with each plan, so check a specific plan’s official plan documents to understand how that plan handles pre-existing conditions
The first step in choosing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan in California is to select the plan type that best meets your medical needs. All same-lettered plans will offer similar coverage. Once you have selected a plan type, you can choose your specific plan based on cost. This can vary somewhat between individual plans, since Medicare Supplement insurance plans are offered by private insurance companies.
As of January 1, 2016, Medicare's unfunded obligation over the 75 year timeframe is $3.8 trillion for the Part A Trust Fund and $28.6 trillion for Part B. Over an infinite timeframe the combined unfunded liability for both programs combined is over $50 trillion, with the difference primarily in the Part B estimate. These estimates assume that CMS will pay full benefits as currently specified over those periods though that would be contrary to current United States law. In addition, as discussed throughout each annual Trustees' report, "the Medicare projections shown could be substantially understated as a result of other potentially unsustainable elements of current law." For example, current law effectively provides no raises for doctors after 2025; that is unlikely to happen. It is impossible for actuaries to estimate unfunded liability other than assuming current law is followed (except relative to benefits as noted), the Trustees state "that actual long-range present values for (Part A) expenditures and (Part B/D) expenditures and revenues could exceed the amounts estimated by a substantial margin."
In 2018, Medicare provided health insurance for over 59.9 million individuals—more than 52 million people aged 65 and older and about 8 million younger people. On average, Medicare covers about half of healthcare expenses of those enrolled. Despite often being called single-payer, United States Medicare is funded by a combination of a payroll tax, beneficiary premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, co-pays and deductibles, and general U.S. Treasury revenue. In addition, per the Medicare Trustees, almost everyone on Medicare adds private or public supplements to so-called Original Medicare, which have additional premiums and co-pays. Instead of being single payer, some people on United States Medicare have as many as six payers including themselves.
However, you may have to wait up to six months for coverage if you have a pre-existing health condition. The insurer through which you buy your Medigap policy can refuse to cover out-of-pocket costs for pre-existing conditions during that period. After six months, the Medigap policy must cover the pre-existing condition. The exception to this rule is if you buy a Medigap policy during your open enrollment period and have had continuous "creditable coverage," or a health insurance policy for the six months before buying a policy. The Medigap insurance company cannot withhold coverage for a pre-existing condition in that case.
Medigap plans may cover costs like Medicare coinsurance and copayments, deductibles, and emergency medical care while traveling outside of the United States. There are 10 standardized plan types in 47 states, each given a lettered designation (Plan G, for example). Plans of the same letter offer the same benefits regardless of where you purchase your plan. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin offer their own standardized Medigap plans.
In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was established as a federal agency responsible for the administration of Medicare and Medicaid. This would be renamed to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2001. By 1983, the diagnosis-related group (DRG) replaced pay for service reimbursements to hospitals for Medicare patients.
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*Plan F also has an option called a high deductible Plan F. This option is not currently offered by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. This high deductible plan pays the same benefits as Plan F after you have paid a calendar year deductible of $2,300 in 2019. Benefits from high deductible Plan F will not begin until out-of-pocket expenses exceed $2,300 in 2019. Out-of-pocket expenses for this deductible are expenses that would ordinarily be paid by the policy. These expenses include the Medicare deductibles for Part A and Part B, but do not include the plan’s separate foreign travel emergency deductible.
A Medicare Advantage Health Plan (Medicare Part C) may provide more help at a lower cost than traditional Medicare plus Medigap. Instead of paying for Parts A, B, and D, a person would enroll through a private insurance company that, in many cases, covers everything provided by Parts A, B, and D and may offer additional services. The beneficiary would pay the Medicare Advantage premium along with the Part B premium in most cases.