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The Health Care Financing Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has published five free booklets to help you understand Medicare and get all the benefits to which you are entitled.

Medicare Q&A (item 616A, free) is written in an easy question and answer format with 85 questions most-commonly asked by Medicare beneficiaries.Medicare and Your Physician's Bill (item 613A, free) tells you how Medicare determines its payments for your doctor's services and what to do if you disagree with a payment or charge.

Medicare Coverage for Second Surgical Opinions (item 606A, free) outlines nine essential questions to ask before having any elective surgery.

If you are looking for an additional health insurance policy to cover gaps in Medicare, the Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare (item 605A, free) will assist you in choosing the best health insurance plan.

Medicare and Advance Directives (item 614A, free) tells about living wills and durable powers of attorney.

These are ways to get the medical treatment you want should you become physically or mentally unable to let people know your wishes.

To order these five free publications send your name and address to Medicare, Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO 81009.

Medicare benefits are available to most people 65 years or older and to certain younger people with disabilities or permanent kidney failure.

It is made up of two separately financed parts: Medicare Part A for hospital, skilled nursing facility, hospice and home care; and Part B for physician, outpatient and other services not covered by Part A.

The cost of Part A, hospital insurance, is financed as part of your contributions to Social Security. The insurance covers up to 90 days of in-patient care in any participating hospital during each benefit period after you pay the $696 deductible.

A benefit period begins when you enter a hospital, and ends when you have been out of the hospital or any other facility giving skilled nursing or rehabilitation services, for 60 consecutive days.

Part B, medical insurance, helps to pay for doctors' fees. Part B costs $41.10 a month.

It generally pays 89 percent of the approved charges for treatment after you meet the annual $100 deductible. It also covers certain necessary medical supplies and therapies.

If you buy additional health insurance to cover the gaps in Medicare, make sure the policy doesn't duplicate coverage but does pay for services not fully covered by Medicare.

States have limited so-called Medigap policies to 10 standard benefit plans that have letter designations ranging from A through J. The Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare has a checklist that can help you compare benefits provided by Medigap policies.

It's important for you to understand your Medicare coverage because health care costs can be staggering and all of your medical expenses may not be covered.