To know which of the many Medicare options may be best for you, it is essential to understand the basics of the Medicare system. Let’s take a look at the history of this system over time:
Medicare Became Law in 1965
President Harry Truman first requested Congress establish a national health insurance plan in 1945. It took two decades of debates with Congress before President Lyndon Johnson finally signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965.
Ex-president Truman was the first person to enroll in Medicare and at that time Part B premiums were only $3 per month.
Summary of Medicare Benefits Parts A, B, C, D and Medigap
Part A
Part A is hospital insurance. Generally it has no cost and covers inpatient and skilled care at nursing facilities, access to most hospitals, home healthcare and Hospice.
Part B
Part B pays for medically necessary services one receives when not confined to a hospital, including doctor visits, physical therapy, and additional home health care. Medicare pays 80% of the approved charges and you are responsible for the other 20%.
There is a monthly premium and in 2009 it is $96.40 per month for most people.
Part C
Part C is the combination of Part A and Part B called Medicare Advantage. Most companies offering Medicare Advantage offer Part D, prescription coverage. The difference between Part A and B and Part C is that C run by private insurance companies and must offer the same benefits of Original Medicare Parts A and B. Some plans, primarily plans that include Part D coverage, have additional premiums.
Part D
Part D is stand-alone prescription drug coverage insurance. There is a premium associated with all plans for the drug coverage. Part D plans can vary dramatically, and cover different drugs. This is a complicated system, consider by most involved to not very good, but at least it gives you coverage for many of your prescriptions. The best place to get detailed assistance on finding the best Part D plan for your personal needs is by visiting
Medigap plans, also known as Medicare Supplement insurance, are from private insurers and cover the gaps in Medicare Part A and B . There are 12 plans. Though costs vary once insurarance company to the next, the benefits on these policies are standardized, meaning all Plan As (not to be confused with Medicare Part A) must offer the same coverage, regardless of the insurance company providing your Medigap plan. The same goes for Medigap Plans B through L, though the price will vary from one company to another, the benefits of each letter must be the same.
You’ve Got Important Decisions To Make About Your Medicare Benefits
If you’re already enrolled, eligible or even close to eligibility take the time to find out which Medicare benefit will work best for you by visiting It’s well worth your time and effort to make an informed decision about your health care and associated costs.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.