When Medicare was introduced in the 1960s, it changed public health forever. Fast forward a half-century and some 60 million Americans are enrolled and using this federal public program for the majority of their healthcare needs.
It has saved the lives of so many people and provided protection to countless seniors who get better care and sleep easier than they ever would have been able to without it.
That said, Medicare isn’t a perfect solution for every medical need. The primary Original Medicare is great for what it is, but it just doesn’t cover everything.
And this is why supplemental coverage, widely known as Medicare Advantage plans, have been developed. By adding these customized options to the more-than-adequate insurance that seniors get through their initial enrollment, they can obtain a much more comprehensive type of coverage that will protect them for a broader range of potential health issues.
This is the biggest takeaway you need to understand when researching Medicare Advantage plans. Between this and a few of the details discussed below, you will then be equipped to make the best decision for your own needs.
Know Who Needs a Medicare Advantage Plan
Everyone who is eligible for Medicare — primarily those Americans 65 or older — is also eligible to enroll in a marketplace Medicare Advantage plan. These are generally within the wider Medicare Part C umbrella of available plans and operate much like a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan with added flexibility rather than an HMO style plan. They can usually also be customized to include coverage for some prescription drugs.
So whether you are looking for yourself as you approach retirement or you are trying to find the best option for an aging parent, a Medicare Advantage plan may very well fit the bill. Given it’s price point for how much extra coverage you get, it is well-regarded as a solid type of insurance to have.
Know the Costs of a Medicare Advantage Plan
As noted, Medicare Advantage plans offer a great bang for your buck. The different options on the market will have different out-of-pocket costs, and this will be in addition to traditional Medicare coverage.
But the prices across the board are usually overwhelmingly reasonable for the extra benefits you will receive. They also can include Part D prescription drug coverage, vision and dental coverage, and generally allow you more flexibility to visit any doctor — even those out of network — or a specialist without a referral. And, crucially, Medicare will pay a fixed amount each month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage plans.
Know How to Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan
You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan as soon as you enroll in Medicare. This is something you will want to do within three months of your 65th birthday. If you fail to do so initially, there are also certain times of the year when you are able to select (or change) your plan.
This enrollment period is at the tail end of the year for coverage that starts in January, falling between October 15 and December 7. So even if you miss out in year one, you can still enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan later. Medicare Advantage plans are available from private, Medicare-approved insurance companies.
Selecting the Best with Confidence
The health coverage you have when you turn 65 — and beyond — will be critical to your well being for the rest of your life. Everybody should try to understand the key differences between the options on the market and make their own Medicare Advantage plan comparison.
Only with full knowledge can you make the best choice. And there is never too much information. The more you know, the more confident you can be about selecting the best Medicare Advantage plan.