Medicare Advantage Plans
What Are Medicare Advantage Plans?
A Medicare Advantage Plan is another way to get your Medicare coverage.
Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll still have Medicare but you’ll get most of your Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage from the Medicare Advantage Plan, not Original Medicare. Most plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). In most cases, you’ll need to use health care providers who participate in the plan’s network. However, many plans offer out-of-network coverage, but sometimes at a higher cost. Remember, you must use the card from your Medicare Advantage Plan to get your Medicare-covered services. Keep your red, white and blue Medicare card in a safe place because you will need it if you ever switch back to Original Medicare.
Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Almost All Medicare Part A and Part B Benefits
In all types of Medicare Advantage Plans, you’re always covered for emergency and urgent care. Medicare Advantage Plans must cover almost all of the medically necessary services that Original Medicare covers. However, if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Original Medicare will still cover the cost for hospice care, some new Medicare benefits, and some costs for clinical research studies.
Medicare Advantage Plans Must Follow Medicare’s Rules
Medicare pays a fixed amount for your coverage each month to the companies offering Medicare Advantage plans. These companies must follow rules set by Medicare. However, each Medicare Advantage Plan can charge different out-of-pocket costs and have different rules for how you get services (like whether you need a referral to see a specialist or if you have to go to doctors, facilities, or suppliers that belong to the plan's network for non-emergency or non-urgent care. These rules can change each year. The plan must notify you about any changes before the start of the next enrollment year. Remember, you have the option each year to keep your current plan, choose a different plan, or switch to Original Medicare. Providers can join or leave a plan’s provider network anytime during the year. Your plan can also change the providers in the network anytime during the year. If this happens, you may need to choose a new provider. You generally can’t change plans during the year if this happens.
Even though the network of providers may change during the year, the plan must still provide access to qualified doctors and specialists. Your plan will make a good faith effort to provide you with at least 30 days' notice that your provider is leaving your plan so you have time to choose a new provider. Your plan will also help you choose a new provider to continue managing your health care needs.
Plans can offer extra benefits
Most Medicare Advantage Plans offer coverage for things that aren’t covered by Original Medicare, like vision, hearing, dental, and wellness programs (like gym memberships). Plans can cover more extra benefits than they have in the past, including services like transportation to doctor visits, over-the-counter drugs, adult day-care services, and other health-related services that promote your health and wellness.