What Are the Differences Between Medicare Part A and D?

Medicare Part A is the hospital insurance plan of traditional Medicare coverage, while Medicare Part D consists of prescription drug plans that private insurance companies offer, reports AARP. Although Medicare Part A coverage is the same for all enrollees, Medicare Part D coverage varies depending on the companies offering the plans. Medicare Part A is premium-free for most Medicare recipients, but all those who opt for a Medicare Part D plan must pay a monthly premium.

Medicare Part A hospital insurance covers inpatient treatment in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, explains Medicare.gov. It also covers home health services and home hospice care. Medicare Part D plans allow patients to save money on prescription drugs. The plans have lists of drugs known as formularies, with covered drugs arranged in various price tiers. Low-priced generic drugs are in the lower tiers, preferred brand name drugs are in middle tiers, and high-priced specialty drugs are in top tiers, according to AARP.

Although Medicare Part A enrollees do not pay premiums if they paid enough payroll taxes while employed, they must pay a standard deductible and a copayment percentage of hospitalization costs, states AARP. Medicare Part D enrollees must not only pay premiums, but also deductibles and copayments that vary according to specific plans. Additionally, Medicare Part D plans are different in the formularies and pharmacies they use, and Medicare enrollees should study them carefully to see which plan best meets their needs.