6 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Their 2 Medicare Choices
Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplements. Two feasible choices. Two Medicare buzzwords. One startling misconception. And here it is: Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplements are the same.
But this is just not true…not even a little. In fact, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplements are fundamentally different. So different that not knowing these differences could cost you…in convenience, in security, and in dollar signs.
So…without further ado…these are the 6 things you need to know about the 2 Medicare choices:
- Medicare Supplements pay secondary. Medicare Advantage Pays Instead.
The “street name” for a Medicare supplement is a “Medigap” plan, and it is a nickname rightfully earned. Medigap plans are called as such because they “fill in the gaps” of what traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) doesn’t cover. Therefore, you will have little to no out-of-pocket expenses. A Medicare Advantage plan doesn’t do this. It functions as an alternative for traditional Medicare. This means that—if the Advantage plan doesn’t cover it—you can be stuck with some pesky deductibles, copays and coinsurance.
- Medicare Advantage Plans have Networks. Medicare Supplements Don’t.
Medicare Advantage plans contract with specific hospitals and health care providers. And if you don’t go to their pre-picked “network” of providers, your share of the costs may rise. In some cases (especially out of state), the plan may not cover you if you receive care at a hospital outside of their network (except in the case of emergency)! Medicare Supplements allow you to go to any doctor or hospital you want as long as they accept Medicare.
- Medicare Supplements Don’t Change. Advantage Plans Do.
Since Advantage Plans are funded by government subsidies, their benefits are greatly affected by politics. The more money they can get from the government, the better their benefits and premiums can be. This means that plans will likely change from year to year and you may have to reevaluate, re-shop, and re-enroll in a different plan. Medicare Supplement plans are the opposite. Since the policyholder funds them, the plans are usually consistent from year to year.
- You Can Always Change to an Advantage Plan. You Can’t Always Change to a Medicare Supplement.
If you are in a Medicare Supplement plan, you can switch to an Advantage plan without any medical health questioning as long as it is during the annual enrollment period. It doesn’t matter if you have pre-existing conditions (with the exception of kidney failure); you will still be able to obtain coverage.
However, if you want to switch from an Advantage plan to a Medicare Supplement, it is not as simple. Although you can still enroll during annual enrollment, you will have to qualify based on your health. This can be a problem for those with pre-existing conditions. For instance, let’s say the government curbs their funding for your Advantage Plan. This raises the premium and lessens the benefits significantly. You have cancer. You can’t change to a Medicare Supplement because you couldn’t qualify based on health. What do you do? More than likely, you will have to stay with your unwanted Advantage plan!
- Medicare Supplement Have Premiums. Advantage Plans Have Low Or No Premiums.
While the average Medicare Supplement premium is up around $100-120 a month for a 65 year-old, the average Advantage plan premium is about 50-60. And (aside from your Part B premium) they may be completely free!
- Two Choices Can Quickly Become Two Hundred.
You only have two options in the beginning, but once you choose a route—whether Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement—it will likely multiply into many more choices. There are 11 supplements, 24 drug plans, and dozens of Advantage plans. Not to mention the other decisions you have to make regarding when and how to go about signing up for Medicare to avoid penalties. Like I always tell my clients, Medicare is a big animal. I always recommend consulting with a retirement advisor for help.