Congratulations, you’ve reached the age of Medicare eligibility! Turning 65 has a few benefits, including the ability to access government-backed affordable medical insurance.

If you’re new to the wonderful world of Medicare, you probably have some questions. We’ll try to give you a snapshot of the best Medicare for seniors so you can make an informed decision.

Medicare Overview

There are four “parts” to Medicare that apply to different aspects of healthcare. Depending on your needs and budget, you may choose to enroll in one or more of the following:

  • Medicare Part A is for worst-case scenarios such as a stay in the hospital or a skilled nursing facility.
  • Medicare Part B covers more routine healthcare needs–visiting the doctor or a specialist, purchase medical equipment like a CPAP machine, and so on.
  • Medicare Part C covers the care in Part A and Part B combined. These Medicare advantage plans, as they are often called, are more comprehensive than basic Medicare and may also include additional benefits such as gym access or dental coverage.
  • Medicare Part D is limited to prescription drugs. It is an add-on to any of the other parts described above. However, many people who choose one of the Medicare Advantage plans will not need additional drug coverage. Check your policy to ensure that you don’t accidentally double up!

Medicare Advantage Plans vs. Medicare Supplemental Insurance Plans

It might seem like Medicare Advantage plans are the clear winners in terms of coverage, but keep in mind that–although regulated by the federal government, these plans cost a lot more. That might be why just over 1/3 of people eligible for Medicare Part C choose to take advantage of it.

An alternative form of affordable medical insurance for seniors is Medicare Supplemental Insurance. These plans are offered by private companies, not the government, and will fill in any gaps left by the standard coverage.

For example, you probably noticed that vision and dental aren’t covered by Medicare. That’s bad news for seniors, who may have an increased need for dental work and prescription eyeglasses as they age. Medicare Supplemental Insurance could include plans to cover new glasses or dental work.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a government agency that oversees Medicare Advantage plans. If you’d like to purchase this type of insurance but aren’t sure which one to pick from the wide variety of providers, look for the CMS star rating on their website. The more stars, the better overall choice it is for most customers.

How Much Will Your Coverage Cost?

Unfortunately, the cost of Medicare coverage varies from person to person. While we’d love to tell you how to get the most affordable medical insurance rates, so much depends on your age, income and health status.

For example, a lifelong smoker will pay more than someone who never picked up a cigarette. Older people are more likely to have expensive or ongoing healthcare needs, so someone in their 70s would likely pay more than a patient who just turned 65. However, your income will also play a large factor in adjusting your monthly premium.