What do Medicare Advantage Health Plans Consist of and Why They Are a Viable Alternative to Medigap Policies
Medicare Advantage health plans are private insurance company provided health care insurance policies available to Medicare beneficiaries. These policies were originally created in 1997 but given enhancements with the Medicare Act of 2003. Despite being offered by private insurance companies they are legitimately Medicare health insurance and qualify as Medicare Part C. By law, these policies must offer Medicare beneficiaries the same benefits as offered under traditional Medicare Parts A & B. So anytime a change in law occurs to traditional Medicare, by extension those benefits are also required in Medicare Advantage health plans. For example, the Affordable Care Act of 2011 added preventative services to Medicare Part B for a wide range of screenings, wellness visits, and treatments designed to improve the health of Medicare beneficiaries through early detection of health problems all for free. By extension, Medicare Advantage is also required to offer “at minimum” those same preventative services for free.
Medicare Advantage invites private insurers to compete between each other for Medicare beneficiaries and this leads to some Medicare Advantage health plans offering benefits above what they are required to offer by traditional Medicare Parts A & B. For example, Medicare beneficiaries may elect for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D which carries a small monthly premium. Some of the Medicare Advantage insurers will bundle in the Medicare Part D benefit into their healthcare plan at no additional charge to the recipient. That alone represents a saving which is important to people on fixed incomes. Other factors such as the deductibles and co-pays may also be lower than what traditional Medicare offers. It should be noted that Medicare Advantage health plans may also carry an additional premium. However, the government’s website www.medicare.gov gives you a safe place to compare Medicare Advantage policies. Don’t let an additional premium discourage you from considering these policies because a well-designed Medicare Advantage health insurance plan may offer benefits you could only obtain with the combination of traditional Medicare + Medicare Supplemental insurance. Medicare Supplemental insurance is relatively expensive especially compared to Medicare Advantage premiums.