The majority of elderly patients are covered by health care plans either managed or overseen by the federal government. These plans were first established in the early 1960s to provide medical care for older patients no longer covered by insurance plans from an employer. Each of these plans provides different levels of coverage and focuses on certain aspects of care.
Medicare Part A
According to the official website for Medicare from the United States government, elderly people over the age of 65 are eligible for a government program known as Medicare Part A. This health care plan provides for hospital stays, food, tests, the cost of doctors as well as brief stays in nursing facilities that meet certain criteria. This fundamental program attempts to prevent the high costs of health care that plagued the elderly population prior to its passage.
Medicare Part B
In order to cover additional costs of health care for elderly patients, the federal government also offers an insurance program known as Medicare Part B. This health care plan provides for regular physician and nursing care as well as covers the cost of medical equipment like wheelchairs and canes. Like all government health care options as of 2010, it is overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a segment of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Medicare Part C
Both of these previous programs were subjected to abuses from private companies for decades following their introduction. In addition, they did not account for those with health care supplied by businesses for which they worked. In an effort to address these issues, new options were realized in the late 1990s. Elderly patients can utilize the laws established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to obtain private insurance plans outside of government plans. Also known as Medicare + Choice or Part C, this program allows the cost of Medicare to be transferred to a private company for insurance coverage.
Medicare Part D
In 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act established a system for elderly patients that provides coverage for prescription drugs. This health care plan is overseen by the government but managed by private companies. It offers reimbursements for prescription drugs up to a certain dollar mount, which changes with time. However, it then stops reimbursements at a certain level before kicking back in to cover extremely high drug costs. This is commonly known as the “donut hole.”
Private Insurance Programs
Additional insurance programs are available above the cost of Medicare to elderly patients. Private enterprises offer additional coverage for a fee that help pay for costs above and beyond what these other programs cover. The largest of these is managed by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) as an HMO by UnitedHealth Group and a PPO by Aetna.