What Does Medicare Cover?

Different options of Medicare coverage allow for those who are eligible for a Medicare Part D Plan to choose a way of accessing Medicare coverage that best fits their individual health needs.

Three main factors contribute to Medicare coverage. These include:

  1. Federal and state laws
  2. National coverage decisions made by Medicare concerning whether an item or service is covered
  3. Coverage decisions about what is considered medically necessary, and should therefore be covered

Medicare Part A Coverage

Medicare Part A provides hospital coverage. This part of Medicare can help pay for healthcare received as an admitted patient in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. It may also cover nursing home care (excluding custodial-only care), hospice and home health services.

Examples of medically necessary inpatient care that may be covered by Part A include:

  • Lab tests, X-rays, and radiation treatment needed as an inpatient
  • Operating room and recovery room services
  • Drugs, medical supplies and equipment needed as an inpatient
  • Some blood transfusions as an inpatient
  • Physical therapy from home health services
  • Hospital meals

Certain items are not covered under Medicare Part A. These include doctor services that you receive as an inpatient and custodial care (help with dressing, bathing, eating, etc.). Most doctor services you receive in the hospital are covered under Medicare Part B.

Medicare Part B Coverage

Medicare Part B provides medical coverage. There are two main types of services: medically necessary outpatient services (needed to treat a disease or condition) and preventive services. Medicare Part B differs from Part A because it offers coverage for things needed on an outpatient basis.

Examples of medically necessary outpatient and preventive services that may be covered by Part B include:

  • Doctor office visits
  • Flu and pneumonia shots
  • Clinical laboratory tests (blood tests, urinalysis, etc.)
  • Emergency room services
  • Ambulance services
  • Getting a second opinion before surgery
  • Clinical research
  • Some diagnostic screenings (colorectal screenings, mammograms, etc.)
  • Mental healthcare as an outpatient
  • Durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or nebulizers

Similar to Part A, there are certain items not covered by Medicare Part B. These include custodial care (help with dressing, bathing, eating, etc.), long term care and most cases of dental, vision or hearing care.

Medicare Part C Coverage

Medicare Part C is called Medicare Advantage, and is a way to combine coverage from Part A and Part B. Medicare Advantage plans must provide – at minimum – the same coverage offered by Medicare Parts A and B.

Examples of the services covered by Medicare Part C include:

  • Hospital inpatient stays
  • Skilled nursing services
  • Home health services
  • Medically necessary outpatient services
  • Doctor office visits
  • Medically necessary preventive services (shots and screenings)
  • Laboratory tests

Medicare Part C may also include Part D coverage; when it does, it is called a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan (MA-PD). Medicare Part C plans may offer additional services beyond Medicare, like hearing, vision, dental and transportation coverage. 

Medicare Part D Coverage

Individuals who select prescription drug coverage have two options: they can either enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), or choose a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan (MA-PD).

Medicare Part D covers the most commonly prescribed drugs. However, the specific drugs covered might vary depending on the PDP. The covered drugs are included in the plan’s drug formulary, or list of drugs.