Understanding Medicare: 5 Resources

Understanding Medicare: 5 Resources

Medigap, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D … what does it all mean?

Trying to sort through the tangled web of government health insurance programs can be a frustrating and difficult task. To help, here are five resources for understanding medicare that cover everything from the basics to the nitty-gritty.

1. Medicare.gov

This is the official government website for Medicare and is a good place for in-depth information. If you dig around a bit you can find out what’s covered by various plans and how to sign up for coverage. There are also tools for locating doctors/hospitals/pharmacies and printing ID cards/claim forms. The site has an accompanying phone number, 1-800-MEDICARE, which you can call to get free answers to your questions.

As with most government sites it can be a bit heavy on the technical language and acronyms, so this may not be the best place to start if you’re looking for easy-to-understand descriptions.

2. CNN Money

For those trying to wrap their heads around the basics of Medicare, we recommend starting with the CNN Money site. Their well-structured guide tackles all the core questions with short, simple answers. Just start from the top — “What is Medicare?” — and work your way down for a comprehensive overview.


The AARP also does a good job of covering the complexities of Medicare. As with CNN Money they offer a nice overview (“Medicare Starter Kit”) and tackle a number of frequently asked questions. They supplement this basic information with up-to-date articles, which cover recent changes to the various programs.

4. Kaiser Family Foundation

When does a ship have nothing to do with the sea? When it’s the SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program). This oddly nautically named government program provides health insurance counseling at no charge — an excellent resource for retirees. Each state runs the program separately, so it can be a bit of a pain to track down all the phone numbers and websites. Luckily, the Kaiser Family Foundation has done it for you. If you scroll down on this page you’ll find all the relevant contact information.

5. About.com

This guide from About.com is chock-full of useful information. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to decipher the advertisements from the articles, but if you spend the time you’ll find a great overview of Medicare and in-depth explanations of all the various parts. Particularly useful is the explanation of your rights and the breakdown of your choices.

Photo by 401(k) 2013 via Flickr.