Once you reach age 65, you become eligible for Medicare benefits. However, like many retirees, you might find that Medicare does not cover all of your medical expenses. If you find that you’re responsible for thousands of dollars’ worth of co-payments and deductibles, adding a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan can provide the additional benefits that you need.
Since the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement programs are very different plans by design, it can help to understand the differences between them. A Supplement plan is just that; a supplement to your Original Medicare. You remain enrolled in Original Medicare, but your Supplement plan covers extra co-payments and deductibles. It does not provide prescription coverage, so you will have to purchase a Part D plan if you want help with the cost of your prescriptions.
Medicare Supplement Plans
Medicare Supplement plans are designed in ten different levels, designated by letters of the alphabet. For example, you can purchase a Medicare Supplement A plan, Medicare Supplement B plan, and so on. These plans are standardized, so that all supplemental plans by the same name will offer the same levels of coverage. However, the premiums and degree of customer service will vary between different insurance companies.
Medicare Advantage Plans
An Advantage plan, on the other hand, replaces Original Medicare. You move out of Original Medicare into a private insurance plan, but it must offer at least the same amount of coverage as Original Medicare.
Since insurance companies are granted more freedom in designing their Medicare Advantage plans, benefits might vary more significantly from one company to the next. This means you will need to be very careful when comparing plans with different companies. If you want to include prescription drug coverage, or dental, hearing, or vision benefits in your plan, you might be able to find an insurance company that includes those benefits within their Advantage plan. Although the maze of Advantage plans can be a bit more difficult to navigate, you might be able to include all of the benefits you want in one plan.
One last thing to consider: Medicare Supplement plans are accepted by any care provider that accepts Original Medicare. However, Medicare Advantage plans use either HMO or PPO networks of providers. You might find the networks to be more restrictive and less convenient than simply using any care provider who accepts Medicare.
If you need more help making a decision between Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plans, please give us a call. We will be happy to review your options and help you choose the plan that best suits your needs.