In just a few weeks, the Annual Election Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans will open, and when it does agents who had intended to start selling Medicare products this year, perhaps because of the instability in the individual market, but who failed to get certified to sell those products will have missed their opportunity. Sure, they can still sell supplements all year long, but the big opportunity that comes only once a year will be behind us and they’ll have to wait until October, 2018 for their next chance. To help those of you who are still deciding whether to expand your portfolio to include Medicare-related products or not, we thought we’d provide a short “Medicare 101” tutorial. And for those of you who already sell Medigap policies, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, this should serve as a nice refresher. Since it’s often necessary to educate clients and prospects about what they currently have before explaining what their options are, knowing how to do that in concise terms may prove helpful. Here we go... What is Medicare? Let’s start off with the basics – what, exactly, is Medicare? Put simply, Medicare is a government-run health insurance program for people over the age of 65, people receiving Social Security Disability payments, and people with End Stage Renal Disease (kidney failure requiring dialysis). Medicare was signed into law back in 1965 and was originally created for older Americans who had trouble qualifying for insurance at the time. Over the years, Medicare has been modified on a number of occasions. In 1972, for instance, it was expanded to include the disabled and people with ESRD. In 1997, President Clinton signed the Balanced Budget Act, which created the Medicare + Choice program (now called Medicare Advantage). In 2003, President Bush signed the Medicare Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which created the Medicare Part D drug program and expanded funding for Medicare Advantage. And the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 by President Obama, added a number of new preventive services to the program and began to close the unpopular Part D donut hole. While many lawmakers believe Medicare needs some serious improvements, others would like to expand the program to include those age 55 and older or even to cover all Americans. The government program does have a high approval rating among those who receive Medicare benefits.