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What is Medicare and who can get it?

Medicare is our country’s health insurance program. Although most commonly used by people age 65 or older, some younger people are eligible for Medicare, too. Those include people with disabilities, permanent kidney failure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Medicare helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. Medicare has four parts:

Part A (hospital insurance):
Hospital insurance helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care.

The other three parts of Medicare below may require premium payments, and if you don’t enroll when you’re first eligible, you may also have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have coverage. Also, you may have to wait to enroll, which will delay coverage.

Part B (medical insurance):
Medical insurance helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that hospital insurance does not cover.

Part C (Medicare Advantage plans):
If you have Medicare Parts A and B, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies and approved by Medicare. These plans generally help you pay the medical costs not covered by Medicare Part A and B.

Part D (prescription drug coverage):
Prescription drug coverage helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.