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March 16, 2022
What's the difference between Medicare Part C and D?

What's the difference between Medicare Part C and D?

Medicare is often referred to as “alphabet soup” because it has so many letters, parts and plans. It can be confusing!

But understanding at least the basics can help you find the right insurance option for you. In this post, we’re going to look at two popular options: Part C and Part D.  

Need Medicare or retirement planning help? The Medicare Allies team specializes in Medicare health insurance as well as retirement planning. Call us today at 833-801-7999 for personalized help.

What is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C is more commonly referred to as Medicare Advantage.

It’s your all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare. This bundled package is offered by independent insurance providers, and it combines coverage of both Part A (which covers inpatient care) and Part B (which covers outpatient care).

It often includes prescription drug coverage, which is what Part D covers.

Learn more: Medicare Advantage Insurance

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is Medicare’s prescription drug plan. It is a separately purchased plan that covers prescriptions.

It’s an optional insurance plan that everyone with Medicare has access to, but you must have at least Part A to apply.

Costs vary from plan to plan, but most will have yearly deductibles and premiums.

Learn more: How Do I Find the Best Medicare Part D Drug Plan?

What is the difference between Part C and Part D?

Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is coverage that combines Parts A and B into one concise plan.

Part D is an add-on feature that is available to anyone enrolled in Medicare. Part C may have Part D coverage included, but Part D does not include Part C coverage.

Medicare Part C vs Medicare Advantage

Medicare Part C is also called Medicare Advantage.

The benefit to Part C (or Medicare Advantage) is that it combines Parts A and B and often has additional benefits, such as increased dental coverage and health club memberships.

Drawbacks of Medicare Advantage plans include network limitations and more financial risk exposure if you have a serious health event.

Can you have Part D without Part C?

Part D is available to anyone enrolled in at least Part A of Medicare. You may be able to enroll in a Part D plan if your Part C plan does not cover prescriptions, but not always.

Who is eligible for Medicare Part C and Part D?  

Not everyone can enroll in Medicare C and Part D plans. There are restrictions, such as incarcerated individuals cannot join Part C plans while incarcerated.

If you wish to get Part D, you can’t be living in the U.S. illegally or live outside the U.S. You can only join one Part D plan at a time. Fees may apply if you are late enrolling in Part D.

How can I apply for Medicare Part C and Part D?

As with Original Medicare, Part D is available during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).

After that, the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which occurs from October 15-December 7 each year, is when you can change your coverage for Part D or Part C.

Part C is also available during IEP, the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) and Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP), but you must already be enrolled in both Part A and Part B before applying.

Related: Save the Date for These Medicare Deadlines


Making sense of the alphabet soup can be confusing, but you are not alone. We are here to help.

Give us a shout and contact a member of our team to help you navigate your options and find coverage that fits your needs. We can break it down into plain English and help you make an educated decision about your healthcare coverage after age 65.

Luke Hockaday
Luke Hockaday
Luke Hockaday is a Customer Success Rep here at Senior Allies. Luke has been helping Medicare-eligible clients with their insurance and retirement-planning needs since 2011. Luke is passionate about 3 things, and 3 things only: senior insurance, football, and food!

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