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What is Medicare?

Medicare is the federal insurance program for Americans age 65 and over (it also covers the disabled). You are automatically enrolled at age 65. Medicare includes a mind-numbing maze of coverage, rules and regulations. Basic Medicare comes in two parts: A and B.

Medicare Part A provides coverage if you're hospitalized.

Medicare Part B provides coverage for doctor visits and other "outpatient" costs such as physical therapy, plus some preventive costs such as diabetes testing.

But wait, there's more.

Medicare Part C, known as Medicare Advantage, is a private plan run through Medicare that provides an alternative to Parts A and B. If you want it, you have to buy it.

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. It is a separate policy you buy from a private insurer if you want it.