The hands of two people sitting at a desk, one person is holding a pen over a form on a clipboard.

Social Security and Medicare, Working Side by Side

By Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and certain younger people with disabilities. It is also for people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).

The different parts of Medicare help cover specific services. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and some preventive services.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage plans) is a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans provide all of your Part A and Part B benefits. Medicare Advantage plans may also include Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage). Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Some people with limited resources and income may also be able to get Extra Help with the costs—monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments—related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,900 per year. You must meet the resources and income requirements.

When you apply for Medicare, you can sign up for Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. However, if you decide to enroll in Part B later on, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

You can learn more about Medicare at

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at