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Explaining the Medicare alphabet soup: Parts A, B, C and D, plus Medigap

Medicare's ABCs -- and more
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Medicare's ABCs -- and more © Bigstock

Medicare's ABCs -- and more

Older Americans often approach "the Medicare moment" with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, it's a relief to finally age-qualify at 65 for the federal health insurance program that most of us have spent a lifetime paying into through payroll taxes. Medicare also covers certain younger people with disabilities or kidney failure.

On the other hand, getting a grip on the unfamiliar "alphabet soup" lingo of Medicare's 4 parts and supplemental "Medigap" plans can make it difficult to pinpoint the best coverage options at a time in life when most are battening down their financial hatches for retirement.

Bonnie Burns, Medicare specialist with California Health Advocates, urges seniors to use 1 advantage that may work in their favor: time.

"If you will turn 65 in the next 6 months, learn now how to enroll in Medicare on time to avoid late enrollment penalties and higher premium payments later, and start researching your options for supplementing Medicare coverage," she says.

To get a head start, here are the ABCs (and D's) of Medicare.

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