How to Compare Medicare Advantage PlansOctober 9th, 2013 | Posted by in Medicare Advantage | Medicare Costs | Medicare Coverage | Medicare Plans
Are you looking to enroll in or switch Medicare Advantage plans during this year’s Annual Enrollment Period? Be sure to compare your Medicare Advantage plan options.
Medicare Advantage plans are provided through private insurance companies that are contracted by Medicare. These plans must offer at least the same amount of coverage as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), while some may also offer additional benefits such as vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage. Providers can set their own costs and benefits, and these may change each year. There are multiple different types of Medicare Advantage plans available that are offered by many different providers, so it is recommended that you compare all options in your area on an annual basis in case you want to make any changes. You can enroll in or switch plans during the Annual Election Period, also known as the Annual Enrollment Period or Open Enrollment, which runs from October 15 to December 7 of each year.
Different types of Medicare Advantage plans
Eligible Medicare beneficiaries have a few options to choose from when they are comparing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Some types of MA plans may include prescription drug coverage; some may require that you use a certain network of physicians; and some may require that you choose a primary care physician. Because there are different types of Medicare Advantage plans with different plan requirements, the first step to choosing the best plan for your needs is to find the right type. The different types of MA plans include:
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans
- HMO Point of Service (HMO-POS) plans
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans
- Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plans
- Medicare Savings Account (MSA) plans
- Special Needs Plans (SNPs)
Medicare Advantage plan costs and coverage
In addition to comparing the different types of Medicare Advantage plans, it is also recommended that beneficiaries look at a series of other factors that may affect their decision, including:
- Costs: Many Medicare Advantage plans offer monthly premiums as low as $0 a month, while others may charge much higher premiums. In 2013, the average MA premium was about $32.60. Each year, this average, as well as a handful of other out-of-pocket costs associated with MA plans, may increase or decrease. In addition to premiums, you may be responsible for a plan deductible, copayments, and other costs, so it is best to shop around for the right plan for your specific needs.
- Benefits: Although Medicare Advantage plans must provide at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, most plans offer additional benefits, including vision, hearing, or dental coverage, foreign emergency care, or prescription drug coverage.
- Requirements: Certain types of Medicare Advantage plans require that beneficiaries only use health care providers in a certain network. Other types may require that beneficiaries choose a primary care physician and get referrals to see specialists from this primary care physician. If you enroll in a plan with these restrictions and choose to use providers outside of the network, then you may need to pay higher out-of-pocket costs.
Once you have weighed your options in regard to Medicare Advantage plan types, benefits, and costs, then the next step may be to compare specific plans in your area. To compare Medicare Advantage plans, you can use the PlanPrescriber Medicare plan comparison tool.
Medicare hasn’t approved or endorsed this information.