Medicare and Medicaid are insurance options for the elderly and the disabled. South Carolina has implemented the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) - also called the Insurance Counseling Assistance and Referrals for Elders (I-Care) program - to help those applying for Medicare and Medicaid to make the correct choices regarding their insurance. SHIP is a free health benefits counseling service for Medicare beneficiaries and their families or caregivers. SHIP is funded by federal agencies and not associated with any insurance agency.
- If you are eligible for Medicare, you are eligible for SHIP counseling
- SHIP counseling is a free service
- Medicare health and drug plans can change each year in regard to cost, coverage and what providers and pharmacies are in a beneficiary's network. October 15th to December 7th is the open enrollment period when all people with Medicare can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year.
To speak to a SHIP counselor, call your local Area Agency on Aging—the phone number can be found using the search on this page—and tell them you're interested in the SHIP program.
The ABC's of Medicare can be confusing—here's a quick reference guide about the different parts of Medicare and what they cover.
You are eligible for Medicare if:
- You are 65 or older
- You are under 65 but have certain disabilities
Note: Medicare does not pay for non-medical care for people who have a chronic illness or disability. This includes non-skilled personal care assistance, like help with everyday activities, including dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom.
Medicare Part A
Part A helps cover inpatient care at hospitals as well as hospice and home health care. It also covers care in a skilled nursing facility under certain circumstances. Most people do not pay a premium for Part A.
Tip: Always determine if you are considered an inpatient or outpatient when visiting the hospital, as it may have an impact on your Medicare Part A coverage. Download this handy guide from Medicare.gov for more information: Are you a hospital inpatient or outpatient?
Medicare Part B
Part B helps cover doctor and other health care providers' services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health care, and some preventive services. You pay a Part B premium each month.
A lifetime penalty may be added to your monthly Part B premium if you do not enroll when you are first eligible. Note: If you or your spouse continues working after age 65 and you receive health insurance from an employer, different rules may apply. Check with your Human Resources department for more information.
Tip: Savings programs to help pay for Medicare Part B premiums exist. To find out if you're eligible, talk to a SHIP counselor at your local Area Agency on Aging.
Medicare Part C
Medicare Part C is also called Medicare Advantage. It covers a variety of managed care options that private companies offer to Medicare beneficiaries.
Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan still must pay any Part A or Part B premium they would pay if they remained in Original Medicare. In some cases, Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need supplemental insurance.
Medicare Part D
Part D covers some prescription drug costs for people with Medicare Part A and/or B (or Medicare Part C in some cases). Beneficiaries pay premiums and other costs related to Part D plans.
If you don’t join a Medicare drug plan when you’re first eligible, and you don’t have other creditable prescription drug coverage (for example, from an employer or union), you may pay a late enrollment penalty if you choose to join later.
Other Medicare Health Plans
There are some plans that are not Medicare Advantage plans, but are still part of the Medicare system. These include Medicare Cost Plans, Demonstration/Pilot Programs, and Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).
Some of these plans provide Part A and Part B coverage; some also provide prescription drug coverage (Part D).
For more information, check out these resources:
- the official U.S. Government Medicare handbook, Medicare & You 2017
- the official Medicare website
- the South Carolina Department on Aging's SC Senior Citizen's Handbook
If you can't find what you need on this site, please call your local Area Agency on Aging. The phone number can be found using the search on this page.