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Medicare is a national health insurance for those 65 and older, those who are disabled, and those who have permanent kidney failure (end stage renal disease). People who are covered by Medicare are called Medicare beneficiaries. The federal government agency that manages the Medicare program is called the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Medicare is composed of Parts A, B and D.

Part A covers inpatient hospitalization, hospice, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and some home health care. Part A is automatically provided to everyone over age 65 who qualifies. For most people there is no monthly premium payment, but there are deductibles and copayments that the beneficiary pays.

Part B covers doctor's office visits, outpatient care, laboratory services, medical supplies and various other services. Beneficiaries must request Part B coverage and pay the premium every month to continue receiving services. For most beneficiaries, this premium is deducted directly from their Social Security check. There are also deductibles and copayments that the beneficiary pays. The Medicare card shows beneficiaries whether they have Part A, Part B or both.

Part D covers prescription drugs. This coverage may help lower prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future. If beneficiaries join a Medicare drug plan, they usually pay a premium. Part D is optional. Beneficiaries who choose not to enroll in a Medicare drug plan when they first become eligible may have to pay a penalty to join later. These plans are run by insurance companies and other private companies approved by Medicare.

For more information on Medicare and your benefits and rights, visit
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