What is a Medicare Advantage plan?

Medicare Advantage plans combine all your Medicare benefits in one plan. Find out how they’re different from Medicare Supplement Insurance.

I love to garden at home and at my church. My favorite part is deciding which seeds to plant in the spring – figuring out which ones will work best with the amount of sunlight my garden gets, the type of soil I have, and the short Midwestern growing season.

Picking the right seeds for the right situation is a bit like choosing a Medicare plan. There are different types of plans available, because everyone has different health care needs. The type of plan that works well for your friend or family member might not be the best one for you. That’s why it’s helpful to learn about all your Medicare options.

When you’re ready to enroll in Medicare, you automatically qualify for Medicare Parts A and B, also called Original Medicare. Medicare Part A provides hospital coverage, while Medicare Part B covers most doctor visits, outpatient care and supplies.

But most people want more coverage than Original Medicare provides (learn about these reasons in “Why buy a private plan“).

They often choose one of these two options:

1. Original Medicare + Supplement Insurance

Stay with Original Medicare and buy an additional Supplement Insurance plan, and possibly a Medicare Part D prescription plan.

2. Medicare Advantage with Part D coverage

 Purchase an all-in-one Medicare Advantage plan that includes all your Original Medicare benefits and your Part D prescription benefits.

To help you understand a bit more about these plans, we created this chart.

Coverage & Costs

 Supplement InsuranceMedicare Advantage Plan
What does it cover?Different plan levels have different coverage.Plans cover Medicare Parts A and B benefits. Medicare Advantage plans often include more benefits than Original Medicare.
Prescription coverage (Part D)Part D prescription medicines are not covered. Coverage must be purchased separately.Part D prescription medicine is generally included in the plan.

(Both plan types require you to continue to pay your Medicare Part B monthly premium)
You pay a monthly premium for your Supplement plan. Many popular plans have premiums between $150 and $200 a month, and the premium amount can be different depending on your age and health history.You also pay a monthly premium for the Medicare Advantage plan. Premiums range from $0 to more than $100 a month, depending on the plan. All plan members pay the same amount.

Convenience & Perks

 Supplement InsuranceMedicare Advantage Plan
ConvenienceYou manage enrollment, monthly premium payments and member ID cards for each of your Medicare plans – sometimes as many as three separate plans.You manage all your Medicare needs with one plan and one member ID card.
Extra perks and benefitsSome plans may include coverage of worldwide emergency care. Many plans include coverage of gym membership, eye and ear exams, worldwide emergency care and disease and health management programs.

Networks are another important difference: Medicare Advantage plans have them and Medicare Supplement Insurance plans don’t. But what exactly are networks and what are their benefits? Check out our blog post, “What is a network?” to learn more.

Need more help? Check out these resources:

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which offers free, independent counseling services and local workshops to help you make informed health care benefit decisions.

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