Understanding Medicare Advantage

Get the facts before you choose your Medicare coverage

Medicare Advantage2024-06-05T13:19:09-05:00

Medicare Advantage: What Seniors Need to Know

Medicare Open Enrollment:
October 15 – December 7
Every year during open enrollment, current Medicare enrollees can:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or
  • Switch to traditional Medicare coverage or
  • Switch from traditional Medicare coverage to Medicare Advantage coverage

Get the facts about Medicare Advantage plans before you enroll.

Know the Difference

Medicare Advantage is not the same as traditional Medicare. There are key differences that can have a real impact on how, when, and where you get the medical care you might need.

Each Medicare Advantage plan is also different. Comparing each plan’s covered benefits, limits, provider networks, restrictions, and cost-sharing requirements can be challenging, and it can be hard to know if a specific plan will meet your needs should you get injured or sick or become disabled.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not necessarily. It’s true that MA plans have an annual cap on your out-of-pocket costs. But, you may incur unexpected costs if you see a doctor or specialist who isn’t in your plan’s network of providers. You may also incur large unexpected costs if you need care while traveling or if you need to stay in the hospital longer than your plan allows.  You might also incur costs by having to travel outside of your community to see a doctor who is in your plan’s network.

You can only switch back to traditional Medicare during the federal government’s “Medicare Open Enrollment” period – October 15 to December 7.

The potential risk for enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, even temporarily, is that it can make getting supplemental Medigap coverage more difficult and expensive.

Most seniors who choose traditional Medicare will also want Medigap coverage to help pay for out-of-pocket costs. Medigap coverage is most affordable when you first become eligible for Medicare. That’s because the cost isn’t dependent on any medical conditions you have, prescription drugs you use, or number of doctors you see.

If you wait to purchase Medigap coverage until you switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to traditional Medicare, the cost of your Medigap coverage will be underwritten, meaning your medical history and pre-existing conditions factor into the cost. If you’ve used your Medicare Advantage plan for medical care, your Medigap policy will be more expensive than if you opted for traditional Medicare plus Medigap coverage when you first became eligible for Medicare.

Many MA plans do offer “perks,” like gym or Silver Sneakers memberships, and some offer benefits not covered by traditional Medicare like hearing, vision, and dental.

Medicare enrollees need to carefully weigh the value of these perks against the possible hefty out-of-pocket costs for hospital stays, surgeries, medical equipment, x-rays, lab services, ambulance transport, and other services often needed by individuals who are sick or who have an injury or disability.

Medicare Advantage plans do not cover any care you might need when you travel. If you’re visiting family or friends in other cities or states and need medical care, your plan is unlikely to pay for it.

Medicare Advantage plans also do not cover “swing bed services.” You might not think about swing bed services when you’re healthy. But, only traditional Medicare will pay for you to stay in the hospital for extra recovery time and to get rehabilitation services like physical therapy after a procedure like a knee replacement or after an illness. Swing bed services can take place in your local hospital, and you get the care and looking after you need to have a healthy long-term recovery. With Medicare Advantage coverage, you have to go home once the plan decides it is not medically necessary for you to be in the hospital.

Medicare coverage should provide peace of mind and help seniors access the care they need close to home with doctors and providers they know and trust.

The safest choice is to select traditional Medicare and purchase a Medigap supplemental policy as soon as you become eligible for Medicare. If you want to choose a Medicare Advantage plan, carefully compare the choices and ensure your current doctors and providers are in the network and consider what your future health care needs might be and if all prescribed treatment and care would be covered adequately.

Columbus Community Hospital

Columbus Community Hospital is proud to serve the Columbus community and the broader region. As rural hospitals struggle, Columbus Community Hospital continues to grow and provide high-quality services patients can trust.

The National Rural Health Association has named CCH a Top 100 Rural and Community Hospital in the country. In 2021, NRHA named CCH a Top 20 Rural and Community Hospital.

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