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Medicare, a federally funded insurance program in the United States, is a complex program about which many physicians may not receive formal training or education. Plastic surgeons, residents, and advanced practitioners may benefit from at least a basic understanding of Medicare, its components, reimbursement methods, and upcoming health care trends. Medicare consists of Parts A through D, each responsible for a different form of insurance coverage. Medicare pays hospitals, physicians, and graduate medical education. Since the introduction of Medicare, several reforms and programs have been introduced, particularly in recent years with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Many of these changes are moving reimbursement systems away from the traditional fee-for-service model toward quality-of-care programs. The aim of this review is to provide a brief history of Medicare, explain the basics of coverage and relevant reforms, and describe how federal insurance programs relate to plastic surgery both at academic institutions and in a community practice environment.