Advantage Plans, are health plans from insurance companies that have a contract with CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid). Individuals who have Medicare Part A and B are eligible to choose a Medicare Advantage plan. Specialized plans exist for people with certain health conditions, but beyond that the general plans are not allowed to decline based on health except for very specific reasons.
When an individual is enrolled in the plan they do not lose their Medicare. They are entitled to cancel their Medicare Advantage plan, and the next month, they can go back to original Medicare. While enrolled in Medicare Advantage, they will have to use the insurance card provided by the Medicare Advantage plan instead of their Medicare card.
These plans may cost the participants nothing, or very little, though many still require the Part B participation amount. A Medicare Advantage plan is not free however. The plans receive a contribution from CMS every month, instead of having that tax money go to original Medicare. That is how the bulk of the plan is paid for, from tax money.
Traditionally, Medicare Advantage Plans were thought of as HMO plans were an insured person had to use the plan hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers to be covered. Many Medicare Advantage Plans are HMO plans. However, PPO Medicare Advantage plans also exist. Fee for Service Medicare Advantage Plans, or plans that will cover any medical providers who accept the insurance, are being marketed aggressively these days.
Your own medical needs and preferences will determine which plan will work out well for you. If your current medical providers contract with the plan's HMO, then you may be very satisfied with comprehensive coverage with very little extra payments. If you like more choice, and area doctors will accept a Free For Service plan then you might consider an "Any Doctor" plan. Be aware that not all doctors work with the Fee For Service plans, even though the insurance company claims it will work with any doctor! A great compromise is provided by PPO plans. You get the greatest coverage at the lowest price inside the network, but will still be covered by other medical providers.
Most, but not all, Medicare Advantage plans also contain Part D, or prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may have very low, or no, premium for the insured people beyond their normal Part B premium. Some plans even refund the Part B premium. Also, Medicare Advantage Plans are not allowed to do a lot of risk selection based upon health, so they may be a good choice for less healthy applicants.
A traditional Medicare Supplement is very different from Medicare Advantage. With Medicare Supplements you still use your original Medicare Card, and add your Medicare Supplement health card. These plans are also provided by insurance companies, but they simply supplement the coverage gaps and deductibles not provided by original Medicare Part A and Part B.
If you have Medicare Part A and Part B, your Medicare supplement plan will pay the portion of your medical bill that Medicare will not pay. Of course, Medicare supplement plans differ, and so you need to be aware of exactly which portions a Medicare Supplement plan will pay before you sign up. For instance, Medicare may be 80% of your hospital bill, and your supplement will pick up the other 20%.
Medicare supplements come with premiums, and also may exclude unhealthy individuals. However, they generally provide the broadest access to health care.
Choosing a Medicare health plan can be one of the most important decisions a Medicare beneficiary will make. Let us help you find the right plan to fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget.