Key Takeaways

  • Original Medicare, or Medicare Parts A and B, is also known as “traditional Medicare” or “fee-for-service” Medicare.

  • What do Medicare Parts A and B cover? Generally speaking, Part A covers inpatient care while Part B covers outpatient care.

  • What does Medicare not cover? Parts A and B do not cover long-term nursing home care, acupuncture, and other services.

Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) is also known as “traditional Medicare” or “fee-for-service” Medicare. This government-managed health insurance program is for older adults age 65 and up as well as younger people with certain disabilities. Original Medicare plans are typically offered by a private company authorized by Medicare to provide benefits to enrollees.

If you're trying to decide if Original Medicare is right for your health care needs, the first step is understanding the scope of coverage it affords.

What does original Medicare cover?

Traditional Medicare covers doctor, hospital, skilled nursing facility, or outpatient treatment clinic treatment if Medicare assignments are accepted.

Does Original Medicare pay for prescriptions? No, it does not. If you have Traditional Medicare, you need to purchase a separate Medicare Part D plan for prescription drug benefits. Some people also choose to purchase a Medigap plan to provide supplemental coverage to Original Medicare. Medigap can help cover out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance in order to make your healthcare costs more manageable.

Original Medicare has 2 parts: Part A and Part B.

What is the difference between Medicare Part A and B?

Parts A and B each cover different aspects of health care. They’re designed to complement one another in order to provide a comprehensive scope of coverage for older adults.

  • Part A – Inpatient Care or “Hospital Insurance”
    Pays for hospital care and some of the costs for a stay in skilled nursing facilities and health care at home. Also covers hospice care for those who are terminally ill.
  • Part B – Outpatient Care or “Medical Insurance”
    Pays for doctors’ services like screenings and lab tests, outpatient hospital care, and home health care, which is not covered by Part A.

The following graphics provide more coverage details.

What do Medicare Parts A and B cover? 

Original Medicare provides a broad scope of coverage that includes most medically necessary services and supplies in a variety of health care settings.

Part A Part B
Hospital care "Welcome to Medicare" exam prevention visit*
Skilled nursing facility care Annual "Wellness" visits every 12 months*
Short-term nursing home care Laboratory tests i.e., X-rays and blood work
Home health care services Medical equiptment i.e., wheelchairs and hospital beds
  Orthotics and prosthetics
  Mental health care
  Ambulance services

*If additional tests or services are needed, you may have to pay coinsurance, and the Part B deductible may apply. 

What do Medicare parts A and B NOT Cover?

“What does Medicare not cover?” is a common question among older adults. You might be wondering, “Does Medicare cover cataract surgery?” or “Does Medicare cover acupuncture?”

When weighing your Medicare options, it's important to know what types of health care services do not fall under Parts A and B (see chart below). In these instances, you'll have to pay for services out of pocket unless you have another type of health care insurance.

Annual physical exams, except for a one-time "Welcome to Medicare" exam when you join Medicare and an annual "Wellness" visit every 12 months 
Long-term nursing home care for more than 100 days
Acupuncture, naturopathy, etc.
Routine foot care
Cosmetic surgery
Hearing aids
Routine dental care and dentures
Routine vision care
Care outside the United States

Need help choosing a Medicare plan?

Navigating all your Medicare choices can feel overwhelming. We’d like to help by connecting you with a licensed and unbiased Medicare benefits adviser who can walk you through your options. Talk to an enrollment specialist today.