What Is Medicare Part C?

••• Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you’re nearing retirement age and wondering what you’re going to do about health insurance, you might start reading up on Medicare only to find yourself wading through an alphabet soup of different plans. Medicare Parts A, B, C and D all provide health coverage to those age 65 and older and certain younger individuals with qualifying medical or income issues. Medicare Part C, also called “Medicare Advantage,” is a comprehensive version of the other three plans.

Parts A, B and D

Medicare Parts A and B are the original plans provided by the federal government. Part A covers hospital stays and Part B covers medical care. Medicare Part D is a prescription drug plan that requires you to pay premiums and deductibles, though you're not required to carry it. You can keep these plans or you can consolidate them into Medicare Part C, which is available through a private insurer's Medicare Advantage plan.

Part C Coverage

By law, a Part C plan must offer the same services as Medicare Parts A and B, but many offer additional coverage as well. Medicare pays the company you choose for part of your coverage each month, but you must also pay premiums. You must first enroll in Parts A and B and have coverage through the government before you can get a Part C plan. Part C plans also typically include prescription coverage and you’ll have to give up your Part D coverage if you make the switch to Medicare Advantage.