| Written by Dan Mangus |
Trying to decide the best coverage option to complement Medicare can be difficult. Medicare can be delivered to you in two primary forms. One is Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow the rules set by Medicare. Most Medicare Advantage Plans include drug coverage (Part D). These private companies file their plans each calendar year with the federal government (CMS), thus, all benefits are subject to change each year. There is an annual enrollment period that allows you to change plans if necessary. In 2021 the average county has over 40 Medicare advantage plan options available.
The other option, which is the default Medicare option, is known as Original Medicare. Original Medicare is coverage managed by the federal government. You can add drug coverage by joining a Medicare drug plan (Part D). Many Medicare supplement options are available from private companies to help pay deductibles and coinsurance if you choose to stay on original Medicare. Medicare supplement plans offer more fixed costs and typically allow you to use any Medicare provider. However, keep in mind that there is no annual enrollment period to change plans like Medicare Advantage, so you need to look for stability in your insurance carrier.
Every individual has their own set of circumstances that need to be considered to make an appropriate choice. What is the right plan choice for one individual may be a bad plan choice for another.
Here are a few items that someone should factor into their decision:
- Costs – Cost of Medigap (fixed) vs. MA (variable)
- Coverage – Does it cover where and what you need?
- Your other coverage – Do you have retiree coverage from a group plan, VA, etc.?
- Prescription Drugs – Do you have current credible coverage? What are your current medications?
- Physicians & Hospitals – Are your doctors and your hospital of choice in network if you choose a network plan?
- Quality of Care – Will you have access to the providers you want and need
- Travel – Do you frequently travel out of network area?
Medicare.gov is a tremendous source of information and tools for plan comparison. Be cautious to weigh all aspects of a prospective plan. Doing your research and asking a lot of questions when making your selection will be time well spent.