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Index | Medicare | Medicare


Lifespan of Americans is known to have increased nowadays, and senior citizens strive to stay healthy and active as they age. However, the older we get the more extensive health care we need. Though staying forever young remains a dream unattainable, living a long and safe quality life at peace with yourself is quite an achievable goal. Besides common measures you can take to stay fit longer, like sticking to a balanced diet, taking enough exercise, not practicing pernicious habits, maintaining a positive attitude and having regular checkups, there are some other things to help you age beautifully.

What is Medicare Program?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for citizens or permanent residents of the United States of America of 65 years of age and older, as well as for individuals under 65 who have certain disabilities, i.e. suffer from End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure). This program is administered by the Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Medicare program became a law on July 30, 1965 at the bill-signing ceremony when former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as the first Medicare beneficiary and received the first Medicare card from President Lyndon B. Johnson.

According to statistics, in 2005 Medicare ensured health care coverage for 42.6 million Americans. By 2031, the time when the baby boom generation is fully enrolled, the number of Medicare beneficiaries will most likely have reached 77 million.

Parts of Medicare

At present, there are four parts of Medicare program:

Part A is Hospital Insurance, which helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, and some health care or nursing facility following hospital care. Since most people (or their spouses) worked for at least 10 years in Medicare-covered employment and paid taxes, this part of Medicare program is normally provided free to the eligible member.

Part B is Medical Insurance, which covers physician and outpatient hospital care and some other medical services, such as lab tests and x-rays. Part B of Medicare is basically meant to fill some gaps in medical insurance coverage of Part A. Part B is optional, and you have to pay a monthly premium if you enroll. The sum of the premium varies and there is an annual deductible. Part B will pay 80 percent of Medicare and you remain responsible for the other 20 percent of the Medicare charges.

Part C is Medicare Advantage (Medicare + Choice), which means that a person covered by Medicare Part A and B can get their health services through some provider organization at their choice. In other words, if you are entitled to Medicare Part A and enrolled in Part B, you can choose to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan. Private Health Insurance companies often enter into contract with the federal government to offer Medicare benefits by means of their own policies.

Part D is Drug Coverage, which pays for drugs your doctor may prescribe you. It is a sad fact that many senior Americans cannot afford to properly follow their doctors' prescriptions, as medications are notoriously expensive today. Though the elderly citizens make only about 15 percent of the U.S. population, they fall at about 40 percent of America's prescription drug costs.

Thus, Medicare Drug Coverage protects members who tend to have very high medication costs as well as covers from unexpected prescription drug bills. Since the drug benefit is not a part of the "Original" Medicare program (Part A and B), you can join a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan (MA) or other Medicare Health Plan which provides drug coverage.

How to Sign up for Medicare

When a person who is receiving Social Security benefits becomes eligible at 65, he or she is automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If a person is not receiving Social Security benefits before 65, he or she will be automatically enrolled on the day of application for benefits. If you are not ready to retire at the age of 65, make sure you enroll in Medicare Parts A and B when you turn 65 anyway, since your enrollment in this case won't be automatic. People wishing to be automatically enrolled in Medicare receive an initial enrollment package by mail normally three months before their 65th birthday.

Medicare program does not cover everything and it is vital to make your homework and check your policy for what is and what is not covered. Carefully read the information in your enrollment package and always have your medical bills well organized. You may wish to delay enrolling, but not enrolling at the age of 65 may result in higher premium later on.