Glossary: Medicare

An official who oversees administrative hearings held to resolve a dispute between a government agency and a person affected by a decision of that agency. They oversee any initial appeal you may make with a government institution.

The period from October 15 - December 7 when you can enroll in and switch Medicare Part D plans.

A request to have a third party review an agency’s decision. Requests may be verbal or written. Typically, appeals are requested when benefits, services, or treatments are denied, stopped, or reduced.

Things that you own, like a car or a house. You can only own a certain amount in assets and still qualify for many health care and disability benefit programs. The home you live in and the car you drive to work are exempt under most Social Security and state disability benefit programs. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the first $100,000 in an ABLE account is not counted as assets. For Medi-Cal, CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps), and some other programs, none of the money in an ABLE account is counted.

Also called "resources."

A Medicare Part D plan that meets just the minimum requirements laid out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

A Medicare Part D plan that has its monthly premium fully covered by the Low Income Subsidy.

The time period that Medicare uses to measure an individual’s use of hospital and skilled nursing facility care. A benefit period begins the day an individual enters a hospital or skilled nursing facility (SNF). The benefit period ends after the individual is released and hasn't received any further hospital care (or skilled care in a SNF) for 60 consecutive days. If an individual goes into the hospital after one benefit period has ended, a new benefit period begins. The inpatient hospital deductible may be charged for each benefit period. There is no limit to the number of benefit periods an individual may have.

A trained expert who can help you understand and apply for benefit programs. Their goal is to help you develop a plan for your future and organize your financial life to run as smoothly as possible.

  • For questions about work and your Social Security benefits, use Social Security's "Find Help" tool to locate a WIPA project near you. You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 / 1-866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD). The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) also has Work Incentives Planners (WIPs).
  • If you need assistance with your Medicare, the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program can help. HICAP provides free information and counseling to people with Medicare. You can call HICAP at 1-800-434-0222 or visit the HICAP website.
  • If you need assistance with Medi-Cal and have a disability, you can contact Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746 or visit their website. You may also be able to get help with Medi-Cal from a local legal aid organization. The Health Consumer Alliance website has a lot of useful information about Medi-Cal, including a web page that can direct you to a local legal organization for assistance.
  • If you have questions or need assistance with a program or benefit not listed here, contact an Independent Living Center. Independent Living Centers provide peer support and information on a wide range of topics for people with disabilities.

The portion of the payment for medical services that an individual is responsible for. For example, your health coverage may pay for 80% of the costs of a service, while you will have to pay the remaining 20%. That 20% is known as "co-insurance."

A set amount you have to pay when you receive medical services. For example, you may have to pay $30 every time you visit the doctor or $20 to get a prescription refilled. This is also known as a "copay."

Coverage that is at least as good as that offered through Medicare Part D. Your health coverage plan can tell you whether or not your coverage is creditable.

The amount an individual is responsible for paying before Medicare begins to pay. For Part A, the deductible must be paid each benefit period. For Parts B and D, the deductible must be paid each year.

Prior to 2020, there was a gap in Medicare Part D coverage where Part D beneficiaries had to pay more of their prescription drug expenses. The Medicare Part D Coverage Gap, also called the "Donut Hole," has closed completely, for both brand-name and generic prescriptions. If this gap has affected you before 2020, this means your prescription expenses may be lower.

A request to an insurance plan to pay for a medication that is not on the plan formulary or to otherwise bypass the plan's utilization controls (the rules that help the plan lower costs).

An insurance requirement that you use a cheaper medication before trying more expensive options. This helps the insurance plan reduce costs.

Monthly and annual income amounts used to determine financial eligibility for state and federal benefit programs.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) in the Federal Register. The current FPG for one person is $14,580 per year; for two people, it's $19,720. Add $5,140 for each additional person.

Some agencies refer to these guidelines as the "Federal Poverty Level (FPL)" or "Federal Poverty Line (FPL)."

Note: Different state and federal programs adopt the new Federal Poverty Guidelines on different dates each year.

A list of drugs that a health plan covers.

The period of time between January 1 and March 31 when a Medicare beneficiary can sign up for Part B coverage. Benefits will not begin until July 1 of that year, and a beneficiary may be subject to a late enrollment fee of 10% for each 12 month period they did not have Part B Medicare.

A process that allows Medicare supplement carriers to refuse coverage based on an individual’s health history. This process is also known as medical underwriting.

If a person enrolls in a Medicare supplement during the Medigap open enrollment period, an insurance company cannot use health screening. But, if a person tries to enroll in a Medicare supplement outside of the open enrollment period, then a private insurance company can still use health screening.

Services covered by Medicare including part-time or periodic skilled nursing care; home health aide services; physical therapy; occupational therapy; speech-language therapy; medical social services; durable medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen, and walkers); medical supplies; and other services.

Services covered by Medicare Part A for individuals with a terminal illness. Services may include prescriptions for symptom control and pain relief, medical and support services from a Medicare-approved hospice, and other services not otherwise covered by Medicare. Hospice care is usually given in an individual’s home; however, Medicare may cover some short-term hospital and inpatient respite care (care given to a hospice patient so that the usual caregiver can rest).

A person outside of a Part D plan who reviews an appeal. This is the first person outside of the plan to review an appeal during the Part D appeals process.

The period when a beneficiary can first sign up for Medicare Part B or Part D. For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) beneficiaries, the initial enrollment period begins during the 24th month of a beneficiary’s SSDI or CDB payments. The initial enrollment period typically lasts about seven months.

An individual who has been admitted to the hospital.

Health services received after an individual is admitted to the hospital.

The days following a 90-day hospitalization. Medicare allows an individual 60 lifetime reserve days per benefit period that may only be used once during an individual’s lifetime. Medicare will pay for lifetime reserve days, whether used at once or over the individual's lifetime. However, the individual must pay for the daily coinsurance of $800 in 2023.

Services that assist individuals with long-term medical and personal needs. Long-term care may include medical services, physical therapy, custodial care, and assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, and bathing. Long-term care may be provided at home, in the community, or in facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Medicare will not pay exclusively for custodial care.

Help paying for Medicare Part D for people with low to moderate income and resources. Also known as "Extra Help".

There are two levels of the Low Income Subsidy:

  • The full subsidy is for people who also get Medi-Cal coverage or who are in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP). You may also qualify if your countable income is less than $19,683 per year and your resources are less than $9,090, if you are single (the limits are higher for larger households).
  • The partial subsidy is for people who can’t get the full subsidy, but have less than $21,870 in countable income and less than $15,160 in resources, if you are single (the limits are higher for larger households).
    • With the partial subsidy, you will pay 0%, 25%, 50%, or 75% of the Part D premium, depending on your income, and will only have to pay a $104 deductible before you get help paying for drugs. You will have to pay coinsurance and copayments for your medications, but they will be lower than they would be without the partial LIS.

Note: Not all of your income and resources are counted when you apply for the Low Income Subsidy. You can apply for the LIS even if you are not sure that you will qualify.

Health coverage that requires you to get most services within a network.

With managed care, you have a primary care provider who oversees your care and refers you to specialists within the network when needed.

A joint Federal and state program that provides assistance with medical costs to some low income individuals with limited resources. Medicaid programs vary from state to state. The federal Medicaid program is called Medi-Cal in California.

A Medicare Advantage (Part C) option where Medicare gives your plan money to deposit into a savings account. You can use this money to pay for Medicare costs. After you meet a high yearly deductible, the plan will help pay for Medicare services.

A federal program that provides health insurance for people 65 or older and many people under 65 who have disabilities. After a person gets Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for two years, he or she qualifies to get Medicare as well.

A way of getting combined Medicare coverage through a health plan run by a private insurance company, instead of getting Original Medicare (Parts A, B, and D). Medicare Part C plans can be Managed Care (Medicare HMOs), Private Fee-for-Service, Preferred Provider Organization, and Special Needs plans. If you get Medicare Parts A and B, you can choose whether you want to join a Part C plan or prefer staying enrolled in Original Medicare.

A group of people within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) who hear Medicare appeals after they have gone to an Administrative Law Judge.

A way to organize your Medicare benefits. When you use services within the plan’s network, it helps pay for costs. When you use services outside the plan’s network, Original Medicare helps pay.

A Medicare Advantage option that can have lower copayments than the Original Medicare Plan, but generally limits individuals to visiting doctors, specialists, or hospitals within the plan's network. Plans must cover all Medicare Part A and Part B services, and some plans cover extras, like prescription drugs. Medicare Managed Care Plans are only available in some areas of the country.

Also known as "Medicare Managed Care Plan."

Combined managed care plans for some people with both Medicare and Medi-Cal. These plans exist in some California counties.

Read more about combined managed care for Medicare and Medi-Cal or call the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 1-800-434-0222.

The part of Medicare that helps pay for medical care you get while you’re in a hospital.

The part of Medicare that helps pay for medical care you get when you are not staying in a hospital, such as when you go to see a doctor.

The part of Medicare that helps pay for prescription drugs.

A Medicare Advantage option that gives an individual the choice of visiting providers within the network or seeing a provider outside of the network for an additional cost. An individual does not need a referral from their primary care physician to see a specialist.

A Medicare Advantage option that allows an individual to go to any Medicare-approved doctor or hospital. The insurance plan, rather than the Medicare program, decides what services it will cover and how much it will pay. Although an individual may pay more under this plan, he/she may have extra benefits that the Original Medicare Plan doesn't offer.

Medicare Savings Programs help people on Medicare pay for some of their out-of pocket Medicare costs. The costs paid depend upon your income but can include Medicare Part A and B premiums, co-insurance, copayments, and deductibles. You need to have countable income that is 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,641/month for an individual, $2,219/month for couples) to qualify for a Medicare Savings Program.

There are four different Medicare Savings Programs you may qualify for:

A supplemental insurance policy sold by private insurance companies to fill gaps in the Original Medicare Plan. In California, there are 12 Medicare supplement plans labeled Plan A through Plan L.

Medicare supplement plans are available only to individuals using the Original Medicare Plan, and it is illegal for an insurance carrier to sell a Medicare supplement to an individual who does not have Original Medicare.

Medicare supplements are also referred to as "Medigap."

Health care services that are medically necessary and are aimed at treating illnesses, as opposed to preventing them. (Contrast: preventive care services.)

A pay-per-visit health coverage plan that allows individuals to go to any doctor, hospital, or other health care supplier who accepts Medicare and who is accepting new Medicare patients. The individual is responsible for paying a deductible and copayment. Under Original Medicare, Medicare pays a portion of the Medicare-approved amount, while the individual pays for his/her share (coinsurance).

Individuals with Medicare choose to either stay in Original Medicare or enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. Medicare Advantage plans will have different costs and covered services than Original Medicare.

The health care related costs you pay yourself without help from Medicare, Medi-Cal, or other health insurance.

Health services received outside of hospital care, including after an individual is released from the hospital.

A group of local pharmacies you can buy prescription drugs from. If you purchase drugs from within your pharmacy network, your prescription drug plan should cover it.

Any condition for which “medical care” was received within six months prior to the effective date of insurance coverage. Medical care includes the use of prescription drugs and physician consultations and services. During a pre-existing condition exclusionary period, coverage for that condition is either not provided or can be limited.

The Affordable Care Act prohibits health insurance companies from doing medical underwriting and excluding pre-existing conditions from coverage. Other forms of insurance, like private disability insurance, can do medical underwriting and exclude pre-existing conditions.

A type of health insurance plan. You pay a monthly premium and — when you use medical services — copayments and deductibles. PPOs have networks of physicians. You can see any doctor in the network without getting prior authorization from a primary care physician. Seeing a doctor outside of the network is more expensive.

A regularly scheduled payment to an insurer or health care plan.

A regularly scheduled payment to an insurer or health care plan.

If you're on SSDI or CDB and Medicare, you likely won't have to pay a premium for Medicare Part A coverage. You may have to pay a Part B premium, however. For most people, the premium for Part B coverage is $164.90 per month or a bit less, depending on their situation. If you qualify, a Medicare Savings Program or other programs can help pay for your Part B premium.

If you sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage or have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan instead of Original Medicare, you will also usually have to pay a premium. The exact amount of your premium will depend on the plan you choose.

A Medicare Part D plan that only offers drug coverage. Also known as a "stand-alone" plan.

Health care services aimed at keeping you healthy by preventing illness; for example, Pap tests, pelvic exams, yearly mammograms, and flu shots. (Contrast: non-preventive care services.)

A doctor who provides basic care and acts as an individual’s first point of contact when seeking health services. In many Medicare Managed Care Plans (Medicare HMOs), an individual may need to see their primary care doctor before going to a specialist.

A requirement to get an insurance plan's permission to use a certain medication. This helps the insurance plan reduce costs.

A Medicare Savings Program that pays for Medicare Part A premiums. The QDWI program is for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who lose their free Medicare Part A due to earnings. To qualify, an individual must:

  • Be less than 65 years old,
  • Be eligible for Medicare Part A,
  • Have countable income that's 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($2,430 or less per month for individuals, $3,287 or less for couples),
  • Have assets at or below the limit ($130,000 for individuals, $195,000 for couples), and
  • Meet all other Medi-Cal eligibility requirements.

A Medicare Savings Program that pays for Medicare Part B premiums. To qualify, an individual must:

  • Be eligible for Medicare Part A and B
  • Have countable income that's 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,641 or less per month for individuals, $2,219 or less for couples),
  • Have resources at or below the limit ($130,000 for individuals, $195,000 for couples), and
  • Meet all other Medi-Cal eligibility requirements.

A Medicare Savings Program that pays for Medicare Part A and Part B premiums, coinsurance and deductibles. To qualify, you must:

  • Be eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B,
  • Have countable income that's 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) or less ($1,215 or less per month for individuals, $1,644 or less for couples),
  • Have resources at or below the limit ($130,000 for individuals, $195,000 for couples), and
  • Meet all other Medi-Cal eligibility requirements.

This program does not apply benefits retroactively.

Services that include a semiprivate room, meals, skilled nursing and rehabilitative services, and other services and supplies. Medicare covers skilled nursing facility care after the individual has been in the hospital for three days.

The period when an individual can apply for Medicare coverage without a late enrollment penalty and can sign up for Medicare supplement without a pre-existing condition waiting period. The special enrollment period typically spans the first eight months following the loss of group health coverage.

A Medicare Advantage option that provides health care focused on certain health conditions. These plans provide comprehensive Medicare coverage to manage a particular disease or condition, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Medicare Special Needs Plans are only available in some areas of the country.

Learn more about Special Needs Plans on

A Medicare Savings Program that pays for Medicare Part B premiums. To qualify, you must:

State programs that receive money from the federal government to provide free, local health insurance counseling on Medicare. In California this program is known as Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP).

Different levels of coverage offered by Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plans. Drugs in lower levels usually have lower copayments and drugs in higher levels usually have higher copayments.

Rules that insurance plans use to keep their prescription drug costs down. You may, for example, need prior authorization from the plan to use a particular drug.

A delay in covering services for an individual with a pre-existing condition. Individuals are exempt from a waiting period if they have had 6 months of previous, continuous coverage.

Work incentives are rules that help people who get public benefits and work. They let people get a benefit while they're working, keep a benefit longer while they work, or get a benefit back quickly if it stops due to work.

All public benefits in California have work incentives, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, and Medi-Cal.