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What is Medicare?

Who is this for?

Learn more about how Medicare works.

If you’re new to Medicare, this page will help you learn the basics.

You’ve seen money taken out of your paycheck for Medicare. Now you want to know: What is Medicare and what will I get for my investment in it?

Medicare is a public health insurance program. It’s run by the federal government through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Who's eligible for Medicare?

In general, Medicare covers people age 65 and older. But people younger than 65 can get Medicare if they have certain permanent disabilities or diseases.

Find out if you’re eligible for Medicare.

When can I sign up for Medicare?

Most people sign up for Medicare when they turn 65. If you're already getting Social Security benefits, you're automatically enrolled. If not, you can still sign up. Find out more about getting Medicare without Social Security in our Help Center.

When you sign up is important. If you don't sign up when you're first eligible, you might have to pay higher monthly premiums when you do sign up.

Learn more about when and how to sign up for Medicare.

What are the different parts of Medicare?

You might have heard people refer to the different parts of Medicare as alphabet letters. Here's a breakdown:


Part A Part B Part C Part D
Also called Original Medicare Original Medicare Medicare Advantage Prescription drug plans
What it covers Hospital stays, skilled nursing facility stays and hospice Medical care like doctor visits and outpatient procedures What parts A and B cover, and often prescription drugs, dental and vision Prescription drugs
Where you get it From the federal government From the federal government From private insurance companies that contract with the government From private insurance companies that contract with the government
What you pay Most people don't pay a monthly premium You pay a monthly premium that varies depending on your income You usually pay a monthly premium You pay a monthly premium

You can read more about Medicare Parts A, B, C and D in our Help Center.

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Page Last Updated Tue Jun 24 08:56:50 EDT 2014