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Medicare Glossary

Here you will find a list of words and phrases that are commonly used when talking about Medicare.

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Ambulatory Surgical Center - An entity whose sole purpose is to provide outpatient surgical services to patients (1) who do not require hospitalization and (2) whose expected stay in the center does not exceed 24 hours.

Annual Enrollment Period - A set time each fall when members can change their health or drug plans or switch to Original Medicare. The Annual Enrollment Period is from Oct. 15 until Dec. 7.

Appeal - An appeal is something you do if you disagree with our decision to deny a request for coverage of health care services or prescription drugs, or payment for services or drugs you already received. You may also make an appeal if you disagree with our decision to stop services that you are receiving. For example, you may ask for an appeal if we do not pay for a drug, item, or service you think you should be able to receive.

Balance Billing - When a network provider (such as a doctor or hospital) bills a patient more than the plan's cost-sharing amount. As a member you only have to pay our plan's cost-sharing amounts when you get services covered by our plan from network providers. We do not allow providers to "balance bill" you or otherwise charge you more than the amount of cost sharing your plan says you must pay.

Benefit Period - The way that both our plan and Original Medicare measures your use of skilled nursing facility (SNF) services. A benefit period begins the day you go into a skilled nursing facility. The benefit period ends when you have not received any skilled care in a SNF for 60 days in a row. If you go into a skilled nursing facility after one benefit period has ended, a new benefit period begins. There is no limit to the number of benefit periods.

Brand Name Drug - A prescription drug that is manufactured and sold by the same pharmaceutical company that originally researched and developed the drug. Brand name drugs have the same active ingredient formula as the generic version of the drug. However, generic drugs are manufactured and sold by other drug manufacturers and are generally not available until after the patent on the brand name drug has expired.

Catastrophic Coverage Stage - When you (or those paying on your behalf) have spent a set total of out-of-pocket costs within the calendar year, you will move from the Coverage Gap Stage to the Catastrophic Coverage Stage. This amount changes annually. Please see your Evidence of Coverage for details.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) - The federal agency that administers Medicare.

Coinsurance - An amount you may be required to pay as your share of the cost for services or prescription drugs. Coinsurance is usually a percentage (for example, 20%).

Co-payment - An amount you may be required to pay as your share of the cost for a medical service or supply, like a doctor's visit, hospital outpatient visit or a prescription drug. A co-payment is usually a set amount, rather than a percentage. For example, you might pay $10 or $20 for a doctor's visit or prescription drug.

Cost Sharing - Cost sharing refers to amounts that a member has to pay when services or drugs are received. Cost sharing includes any combination of the following three types of payments: (1) any deductible amount a plan may impose before services or drugs are covered; (2) any fixed "co-payment" amount that a plan requires when a specific service or drug is received; or (3) any coinsurance amount that a plan requires when a specific service or drug is received. A daily cost sharing rate may apply when your doctor prescribes less than a full month's supply of certain drugs for you and you are required to pay a co-pay.

Cost Sharing Tier - Every drug on the list of covered drugs is in one of the cost sharing tiers. In general, the higher the cost sharing tier, the higher your cost for the drug.

Coverage Determination - A decision about whether a drug prescribed for you is covered by the plan and the amount, if any, you are required to pay for the service or prescription. In general, if you bring your prescription to a pharmacy and the pharmacy tells you the prescription is not covered under your plan, that is not a coverage determination. You need to call or write to your plan to ask for a formal decision about the coverage. Coverage determinations are also called "coverage decisions."

Covered Drugs - All of the prescription drugs covered by our plan.

Covered Services - All of the health care services and supplies that are covered by our plan.

Creditable Prescription Drug Coverage - Prescription drug coverage (for example, from an employer or union) that is expected to pay, on average, at least as much as Medicare's standard prescription drug coverage. People who have this kind of coverage when they become eligible for Medicare can generally keep the coverage without paying a penalty if they decide to enroll in Medicare prescription drug coverage later.

Customer Service - A department within our plan that answers your questions about membership, benefits, grievances and appeals.

Daily Cost Sharing Rate - Something that may apply when your doctor prescribes less than a full month's supply of certain drugs for you and you are required to pay a co-pay. A daily cost sharing rate is the one month co-pay divided by the number of days in a month's supply. For example, if your co-pay for a one-month supply of a drug is $30, and a one-month's supply in your plan is 30 days, then your daily cost-sharing rate is $1 per day. This means you pay $1 for each day's supply when you fill your prescription.

Deductible - The amount you must pay for health care or prescriptions before our plan begins to pay.

Disenroll or Disenrollment - The process of ending your membership in our plan. Disenrollment may be voluntary (your own choice) or involuntary (not your own choice).

Dual Eligible Individual - A person who qualifies for both Medicare and Medicaid coverage. 

Durable Medical Equipment - Certain medical equipment that is ordered by your doctor. Examples are walkers, wheelchairs, or hospital beds.

Emergency - A medical emergency is when you, or any other person with an average knowledge of health and medicine, believe that you have medical symptoms that require immediate medical attention to prevent loss of life, loss of a limb, or loss of function of a limb. The medical symptoms may be an illness, injury, severe pain, or a medical condition that is quickly getting worse.

Emergency Care - Covered services that are: (1) rendered by a provider qualified to furnish emergency services; and (2) needed to evaluate or stabilize an emergency medical condition.

Evidence of Coverage (EOC) and Disclosure Information - The document, along with your enrollment form and any other attachments, riders, or other optional coverage selected, which explains your coverage, what we must do, your rights, and what you have to do as a member of our plan.

Exception - A type of coverage determination that, if approved, allows you to get a drug that is not on your plan sponsor's formulary (a formulary exception), or get a non-preferred drug at the preferred cost-sharing level (a tiering exception). You may also request an exception if your plan sponsor requires you to try another drug before receiving the drug you are requesting, or the plan limits the quantity or dosage of the drug you are requesting (a formulary exception).

Extra Help - A Medicare program to help people with limited income and resources pay Medicare prescription drug program costs, such as premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance.

Formulary or "Drug List" - A list of prescription drugs covered by the plan. The drugs on this list are selected by the plan with the help of doctors and pharmacists. The list includes both brand name and generic drugs.

Generic Drug - A prescription drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as having the same active ingredient(s) as the brand name drug. Generally, a "generic" drug works the same as a brand name drug and usually costs less.

Grievance - A type of complaint you make about us or one of our network providers or pharmacies, including a complaint concerning the quality of your care. This type of complaint does not involve coverage or payment disputes.

Home Health Aide - A home health aide provides services that do not require the skills of a licensed nurse or therapist, such as help with personal care (e.g., bathing, using the toilet, dressing, or carrying out prescribed exercises). Home health aides do not have a nursing license or provide therapy.

Hospice - An enrollee who has six months or less to live has the right to elect hospice.  We, your plan, must provide you with a list of hospices in your geographic area. If you elect hospice and continue to pay premiums, you are still a member of our plan. You can still obtain all medically necessary services, as well as the supplemental benefits we offer. The hospice will provide special treatment for your state. 

Hospital Inpatient Stay - A hospital stay when you have been formally admitted to the hospital for skilled medical services. Even if you stay in the hospital overnight, you might still be considered an "outpatient."

Independent Practice Association (IPA) - An association of physicians, including PCPs and specialists, and other health care providers, including hospitals, that contracts with an HMO to provide services to enrollees. Some IPAs have formal referral circles, which means that their providers will only refer patients to other providers belonging to the same IPA.

Initial Coverage Limit - The maximum limit of coverage under the Initial Coverage Stage.

Initial Enrollment Period - When you are first eligible for Medicare, the period of time when you can sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B. For example, if you are eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, your Initial Enrollment Period is the seven-month period that begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.

Institutional Special Needs Plan (SNP) - A Special Needs Plan that enrolls eligible individuals who continuously reside or are expected to continuously reside for 90 days or longer in a long-term care (LTC) facility. These LTC facilities may include a skilled nursing facility (SNF); nursing facility (NF); (SNF / NF); an intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded (ICF / MR); and/or an inpatient psychiatric facility. An institutional Special Needs Plan to serve Medicare residents of LTC facilities must have a contractual arrangement with (or own and operate) the specific LTC facility or facilities).

Late Enrollment Penalty - An amount added to your monthly premium for Medicare drug coverage if you go without creditable coverage (coverage that is expected to pay, on average, at least as much as standard Medicare prescription drug coverage) for a continuous period of 63 days or more after you become eligible for Medicare. You pay this higher amount as long as you have a Medicare drug plan. There are some exceptions. For example, if you receive Extra Help from Medicare to pay your prescription drug plan costs, you do not pay a late enrollment penalty.

List of Covered Drugs - See Formulary or Drug List.

Low Income Subsidy - See Extra Help.

Maximum Charge - The amount set by an insurance company as the highest amount than can be charged for a particular medical service.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Amount - Once you have paid out-of-pocket for covered Part A and Part B services, you will pay nothing for your covered in-network Part A and Part B services for the rest of the calendar year. Amounts you pay for your Medicare Part A and Part B premiums, and prescription drugs, do not count toward the maximum out-of-pocket amount.

Medicaid (or Medical Assistance) - A joint Federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with low incomes and limited resources. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Medically Accepted Indication - A use of a drug that is either approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or supported by certain reference books.

Medically Necessary - Services, supplies, or drugs that are needed for the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of your medical condition and meet accepted standards of medical practice.

Medicare - The federal health insurance program for people 65 years of age or older, some people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (generally those with permanent kidney failure who need dialysis or a kidney transplant). People with Medicare can get their Medicare health coverage through Original Medicare, a Medicare Cost Plan, a PACE plan or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period - The period from January 1 – March 31 each year when members in a Medicare Advantage Plan can switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to Original Medicare (and join a separate Medicare drug plan).

Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan - Sometimes called Medicare Part C. A plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. A Medicare Advantage plan can be an HMO, PPO, a Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plan, or a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plan. When you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare services are covered through the plan, and are not paid for under Original Medicare. In most cases, Medicare Advantage Plans also offer Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage). These plans are called Medicare Advantage Plans with Prescription Drug Coverage. Everyone who has Medicare Part A and Part B is eligible to join any Medicare health plan that is offered in their area, except people with End-Stage Renal Disease (unless certain exceptions apply).

Medicare Cost Plan - A plan operated by a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or Competitive Medical Plan (CMP) in accordance with a cost-reimbursed contract under section 1876(h) of the Act.

Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program - A program that provides discounts on most covered Part D brand name drugs to Part D enrollees who have reached the Coverage Gap Stage and who are not already receiving Extra Help. Discounts are based on agreements between the Federal government and certain drug manufacturers. For this reason, most, but not all, brand name drugs are discounted.

Medicare-Covered Services - Services covered by Medicare Part A and Part B. All Medicare health plans, including our plan, must cover all of the services that are covered by Medicare Part A and B.

Medicare Health Plan - A Medicare health plan is offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide Part A and Part B benefits to people with Medicare who enroll in the plan. This term includes all Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Cost Plans, Demonstration/Pilot Programs, and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Medicare Part D) - Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs, including many recommended shots or vaccines. Part D is offered through Medicare-approved private insurance companies as either a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD).

"Medigap" (Medicare Supplement Insurance) Policy - Medicare supplement insurance sold by private insurance companies to fill "gaps" in Original Medicare. Medigap policies only work with Original Medicare. (A Medicare Advantage Plan is not a Medigap policy.)

Member (Member of our Plan, or "Plan Member") - A person with Medicare who is eligible to get covered services, who has enrolled in our plan and whose enrollment has been confirmed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Network Pharmacy - A network pharmacy is a pharmacy where members of our plan can get their prescription drug benefits. We call them "network pharmacies" because they contract with our plan. In most cases, your prescriptions are covered only if they are filled at one of our network pharmacies.

Network Provider - "Provider" is the general term we use for doctors, other health care professionals, hospitals and other health care facilities that are licensed or certified by Medicare and by the State to provide health care services. We call them "network providers" when they have an agreement with our plan to accept our payment as payment in full, and in some cases to coordinate as well as provide covered services to members of our plan. Our plan pays network providers based on the agreements it has with the providers or if the providers agree to provide you with plan-covered services. Network providers may also be referred to as "plan providers."

Organization Determination - A Medicare Advantage organization's decision about whether items or services are covered or how much you have to pay for covered items or services. The Medicare Advantage organization's network provider or facility has also made an organization determination when it provides you with an item or service, or refers you to an out-of-network provider for an item or service. Organization determinations are called "coverage decisions."

Original Medicare ("Traditional Medicare" or "Fee-for-service" Medicare) - Original Medicare is coverage managed by the federal government that includes two parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Under Original Medicare, you usually pay a monthly Part B premium and must meet yearly deductibles. Original Medicare will then cover 80% of the approved amount and you’re responsible for the remaining 20% of the cost. Original Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Items and services like most prescription drugs, hearing aids, and routine dental care are not covered. There’s no yearly limit to what you pay out-of-pocket.

Out-of-Network Pharmacy - A pharmacy that does not have a contract with our plan to coordinate or provide covered drugs to members of our plan. Most drugs you get from out-of-network pharmacies are not covered by our plan unless certain conditions apply.

Out-of-Network Provider or Out-of-Network Facility - A provider or facility with which we have not arranged to coordinate or provide covered services to members of our plan. Out-of-network providers are providers that are not employed, owned, or operated by our plan or are not under contract to deliver covered services to you.

Out-of-Pocket Costs - A member's cost-sharing requirement to pay for a portion of services or drugs received is also referred to as the member's "out-of-pocket" cost requirement.

PACE plan - A PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) plan provides medical, social, and long-term care services to elderly people with chronic care needs to help them stay independent and living in their community (instead of moving to a nursing home) as long as possible, while getting the high-quality care they need. People enrolled in PACE plans receive both their Medicare and Medicaid benefits through the plan.

Part C - See Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan.

Part D - See Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Medicare Part D) 

Part D Drugs - Drugs that can be covered under Part D. We may or may not offer all Part D drugs. (See your formulary for a specific list of covered drugs.) Certain categories of drugs were specifically excluded by Congress from being covered as Part D drugs.

Point-of-Service - The HMO with a Point-of-Service (POS) option is an additional benefit that covers certain medically necessary services you may get from out-of-network providers. When you use your POS (out-of-network) benefit, you are responsible for more of the cost of care. Always talk to your Primary Care Provider (PCP) before seeking care from an out-of-network provider. Your PCP will notify us by requesting approval from the plan ("prior authorization").

Preferred Cost Sharing - Preferred cost sharing means lower cost sharing for certain covered Part D drugs at CVS/Caremark mail-service pharmacy.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plan - A Medicare Advantage Plan that has a network of contracted providers that have agreed to treat plan members for a specified payment amount. A PPO plan must cover all plan benefits whether they are received from network or out-of-network providers. Member cost sharing will generally be higher when plan benefits are received from out-of-network providers. PPO plans have an annual limit on your out-of-pocket costs for services received from network (preferred) providers and a higher limit on your total combined out-of-pocket costs for services from both in-network (preferred) and out-of-network (non-preferred) providers.

Premium - The amount you pay to your Medicare Advantage and/ or Prescription Drug Plan each month in order to receive their coverage.

Preventive services - Health care meant to prevent illness or detect illness at an early stage when treatment is likely to work best.  For example, preventive services include screening mammograms and Pap tests. 

Prescription Drug Benefit Manager (or PBM) - Companies that contract with Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans to manage pharmacy services.

Primary Care Provider (PCP) - Your primary care provider is the doctor or other provider you see first for most health problems. He or she makes sure you get the care you need to keep you healthy. He or she also may talk with other doctors and health care providers about your care and refer you to them. In many Medicare health plans, you must see your primary care provider before you see any other health care provider.

Prior Authorization - Approval in advance to get services or certain drugs that may or may not be on our formulary. Some in-network medical services are covered only if your doctor or other network provider gets "prior authorization" from our plan. Some drugs are covered only if your doctor or other network provider gets "prior authorization" from us. Covered drugs that need prior authorization are marked in the formulary.

Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) - A group of practicing doctors and other health care experts paid by the federal government to check and improve the care given to Medicare patients.

Quantity Limits - A management tool that is designed to limit the use of selected drugs for quality, safety or utilization reasons. Limits may be on the amount of the drug that we cover per prescription or for a defined period of time.

Referral - A written order from your primary care physician for you to see a specialist or get certain medical services. In many Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) plans, you need to get a referral before you can get medical care from anyone except your primary care physician. If you don’t get a referral first, the plan may not pay for the services.

Rehabilitation Services - These services include physical therapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy.

Service Area - A geographic area where a health plan accepts members if it limits membership based on where people live. For plans that limit which doctors and hospitals you may use, it is also generally the area where you can get routine (non-emergency) services. The plan may disenroll you if you permanently move out of the plan's service area.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Care - Skilled nursing care and rehabilitation services provided on a continuous, daily basis, in a skilled nursing facility. Examples of skilled nursing facility care include physical therapy or intravenous injections that can only be given by a registered nurse or doctor.

Special Enrollment Period - A set time when members can change their health or drug plans or return to Original Medicare. Situations in which you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period include: if you move outside the service area, if you are getting Extra Help with your prescription drug costs, if you move into a nursing home or if we violate our contract with you.

Special Needs Plan - A special type of Medicare Advantage Plan that provides more focused health care for specific groups of people, such as those who have both Medicare and Medicaid, who reside in a nursing home, or who have certain chronic medical conditions.

Standard Cost Sharing - Cost sharing other than preferred cost sharing offered at all network pharmacies except CVS/Caremark Mail Service Pharmacy.

Step Therapy - A utilization tool that requires you to first try another drug to treat your medical condition before we will cover the drug your physician may have initially prescribed.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - A monthly benefit paid by Social Security to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 and older. SSI benefits are not the same as Social Security benefits.

Urgently Needed Care - Care provided to treat a non-emergency, unforeseen medical illness, injury or condition that requires immediate medical care. Urgently needed care may be furnished by network providers or by out-of-network providers when network providers are temporarily unavailable or inaccessible.

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Last Updated On: 10/1/2022