Medicare is a federal government health insurance program that covers some 41.7 million people age 65 and over and those under 65 with specific disabilities or permanent kidney failure (end-stage renal disease). It does not pay for all medical expenses but, rather, provides a fixed amount of coverage (adjusted annually for inflation) that can be supplemented with other plans, called Medigap policies, that are designed to wrap around it. In other words, it is a base to build upon.
Medicare coverage consists of several distinct components:
Additional information about the Medicare program and Medicare Part D coverage for prescription drugs can be found by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or visiting these web sites:
There is also information in the following publications from the Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal government agency responsible for administering the Medicare program.
- Introducing Medicare's New Coverage for Prescription Drugs (CMS Publication 11103) (609k PDF)
- Comparing Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (CMS Publication 11110) (360k PDF)
Another helpful resource to learn more about Medicare and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans is the State Health Insurance program (SHIP), where trained counselors can provide assistance at no charge. The number for local SHIP offices can be obtained from county offices of senior services, from 800-633-4227 (the CMS Medicare Help Line) or 800-792-8820 (the New Jersey Senior Citizen Hotline), or from the Web site www.shiptalk.org. In addition, www.MyMedicareMatters.org, a site sponsored by The National Council on Aging, is available to provide educational materials on Medicare Part D.