What the Medicare plans mean to you

President Obama and his Republican challengers, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, have very different plans for Medicare, the popular government health insurance for seniors (and some people with disabilities). Obama’s Affordable Care Act tweaks it a bit; Romney and Ryan hope to overhaul it, although many details are unclear. How the plans would affect you depends on your current age.

Age range
If Obama wins:
Obama
If Romney wins:
Romney and Ryan

Up to 29

You are so many years from Medicare eligibility that anything could happen between now and then. If the status quo remains, you will be eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, as your parents and grandparents were before you.

... and his plan is still in place when you hit 65 (or whatever the retirement age is then), the government will pick up part of your health insurance tab when you buy it from the government or a private company.

30 to 55

You will be eligible for Medicare in its current form, and there will be no "doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage. Preventative care, such as wellness visits and cancer screenings, will remain free.

You would not enroll in traditional Medicare when you turn 65 (or older, if Ryan’s proposal to raise the retirement age by 2022 succeeds). The government would instead cover part of your cost to purchase public or private health insurance. The amount of money you receive would vary by age, health and income. The cost of the insurance would vary by age.

56 to 64

When you turn 65, you will be eligible for Medicare in its current form. By 2020, the "doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage will be closed.

If you turn 65 before 2022, you would be eligible for Medicare in its current form, with two key changes if Romney succeeds in repealing the health-care act:

  1. The "doughnut hole" gap would remain.
  2. Preventative care such as wellness visits and cancer screenings would no longer be free.

After 2022, you could remain in Medicare or use your voucher toward the purchase of private health coverage.

65 and older

Medicare will remain largely unchanged for you, except for an additional benefit: The "doughnut hole" gap in prescription drug coverage will be closed by 2020.

He will try to repeal the health-care act, which would change Medicare in two key ways:

  1. The "doughnut hole" gap would remain.
  2. Preventative care such as wellness visits and cancer screenings would no longer be free.

After 2022, you could remain in Medicare or use your voucher toward the purchase of private health coverage.

What's the doughnut hole?

It's a coverage gap in Medicare's basic prescription drug plan, called Part D. Once drug costs exceed a certain amount, people must pay out-of-pocket until the next level kicks in.

*Total cost paid by the plan and the beneficiary.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Congressional Budget Office, MittRomney.com. GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Emily Chow, Kathryn Faulkner and Laura Stanton - The Washington Post. Published Aug. 17, 2012.