For most people, turning 65 or otherwise becoming eligible for Medicare feels like stepping into alien territory without a map. The signposts you think should be there often aren’t immediately visible. When you ask for directions, you can’t always be sure you’re being pointed down the right path.

Medicare For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is the map you need. It gives accurate, practical information about Medicare in plain language. It shows you how to skirt pitfalls and avoid wrong turns that can cost you dearly. My goal is to help you make informed, confident decisions that take you where you want to be. How can I promise that? Because this book is, in essence, the result of thousands of questions I’ve received over the years from people just like you.

I know from many of those questions that people eligible for Medicare often receive incorrect information from sources — such as government officials — they should be able to trust. That’s why, in these pages, I not only give you info that’s firmly based in law but sometimes also identify certain specific regulations (by name, number, and website) that you can use if you need to prove to an official the legal authority for a particular point about eligibility, enrollment, late penalties, and so on. You can’t find these useful references, which I offer as a kind of consumer empowerment, in other guides.

Confusion about Medicare is almost inevitable for two main reasons. Its regulations apply to different people in different ...

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