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Medicare 101: 3 things to know

Answers to your top questions

This article was last updated Sept. 2, 2020.

If you’re nearing retirement, you probably have some questions about Medicare — the federal health insurance program External Site for people over 65 or those who have certain disabilities. What does it cover? What’s the difference between Medicare Part A and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Plan A? How much can I expect to pay?

Don’t worry: We’re here to help. We’ve answered a few top questions about Medicare. If you need additional guidance, check out our other resources at the end of this article.

  1. What do all the letters mean?

    Medicare comes with a lot of ABCs. Here's a quick rundown:

    • Part A (Original Medicare): Covers inpatient care at a hospital or skilled nursing facility
    • Part B (Original Medicare): Covers outpatient care at a doctor’s office, clinic or other facility
    • Part D (Prescription drug coverage): Offsets the cost of prescription drugs and is purchased separately from a health insurance company

    Because Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything, you may want to consider rounding out your coverage with a Medicare supplement plan, also called Medigap. Wellmark offers a few different MedicareBlueSM supplement plans Opens New Window. The most popular plans are Plan F, Plan G and the high deductible plans, followed by Plan N, Plan D and Plan A.

  2. How much does Medicare cost?

    The cost for Medicare varies from person to person. Most people don’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A — taxes from your paycheck already paid for it when you were working. You will pay for Part B — a monthly premium determined by your income — and any additional coverage you sign up for, like Part D or a Medicare supplement plan.

  3. When do I need to sign up?

    If you haven't already, you'll sign up for Medicare within a 7-month window around your 65th birthday: three months before, the month of, and three months after. (If you don't enroll during this initial period, you could face higher premium costs.) However, your initial enrollment period may occur after your 65th birthday — like if you get your health insurance through your employer or your spouse's employer.

    You can get Part D prescription drug coverage during your initial enrollment period. If you choose to enroll in a Wellmark MedicareBlue supplement plan, you can do so beginning the first day of the month your Part B coverage is effective.

Learn more about Medicare

Request a Medicare Matters guide

Still have questions about Medicare? Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield can help. If you live in Iowa or South Dakota, you can request your free Medicare Matters guide Opens New Window to learn more about the different parts of Medicare, when you’re eligible to enroll and your coverage options.

Or, you can watch our Medicare Matters video series. We sat down with real people planning to enroll in Medicare and answered their questions.

Medicare Matters video series

This is a solicitation of insurance. Must reside in the service area of the plan. Wellmark Medicare supplement insurance plans are not connected or endorsed by any government agency.