A Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare. You will get your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage from the Medicare Advantage plan and no Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans must cover all of the services that Original Medicare covers except hospice care. Original Medicare covers hospice care even if you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans aren’t supplemental coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). In most cases, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan only at certain times during the year.
If you decide to sign up for a Medigap policy, a good time to do so is during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, a six-month period that typically starts the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B. If you enroll in a Medigap plan during this period, you can’t be turned down or charged more because of any health conditions. But if you apply for a Medigap plan later on, you may be subject to medical underwriting; your acceptance into a plan isn’t guaranteed.
The Initial Enrollment Period is a limited window of time when you can enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and/or Part B) when you are first eligible. After you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can select other coverage options like a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plan from approved private insurers. The best time to buy a Medigap policy is the six month period that starts the first day of the month that you turn 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. After this period, your ability to buy a Medigap policy may be limited and it may be more costly. Each state handles things differently, but there are additional open enrollment periods in some cases.
Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.
Part D Total Premium: The Part D Total Premium is the sum of the Basic and Supplemental Premiums. Note: the Part D Total Premium is net of any Part A/B rebates applied to "buy down" the drug premium for Medicare Advantage; for some plans the total premium may be lower than the sum of the basic and supplemental premiums due to negative basic or supplemental premiums.
There are other proposals for savings on prescription drugs that do not require such fundamental changes to Medicare Part D's payment and coverage policies. Manufacturers who supply drugs to Medicaid are required to offer a 15 percent rebate on the average manufacturer's price. Low-income elderly individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid receive drug coverage through Medicare Part D, and no reimbursement is paid for the drugs the government purchases for them. Reinstating that rebate would yield savings of $112 billion, according to a recent CBO estimate.[135] Some have questioned the ability of the federal government to achieve greater savings than the largest PDPs, since some of the larger plans have coverage pools comparable to Medicare's, though the evidence from the VHA is promising. Some also worry that controlling the prices of prescription drugs would reduce incentives for manufacturers to invest in R&D, though the same could be said of anything that would reduce costs.[133] However the comparisons with the VHA point out that the VA only covers about half the drugs as Part D.
A number of different plans have been introduced that would raise the age of Medicare eligibility.[126][127][128][129] Some have argued that, as the population ages and the ratio of workers to retirees increases, programs for the elderly need to be reduced. Since the age at which Americans can retire with full Social Security benefits is rising to 67, it is argued that the age of eligibility for Medicare should rise with it (though people can begin receiving reduced Social Security benefits as early as age 62).

Popular opinion surveys show that the public views Medicare's problems as serious, but not as urgent as other concerns. In January 2006, the Pew Research Center found 62 percent of the public said addressing Medicare's financial problems should be a high priority for the government, but that still put it behind other priorities.[91] Surveys suggest that there's no public consensus behind any specific strategy to keep the program solvent.[92]
Popular opinion surveys show that the public views Medicare's problems as serious, but not as urgent as other concerns. In January 2006, the Pew Research Center found 62 percent of the public said addressing Medicare's financial problems should be a high priority for the government, but that still put it behind other priorities.[91] Surveys suggest that there's no public consensus behind any specific strategy to keep the program solvent.[92]
Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.
The open enrollment period for Medicare runs from October 15 through December 7 on an annual basis, however, this is not the case for individuals interested in Medigap (Medicare Supplement) coverage. The open enrollment period for a Medigap policy is the six month period that starts the first day of the month that you turn 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. After this period, your ability to buy a Medigap policy may be limited and it may be more costly. Each state handles things differently, but there are additional open enrollment periods in some cases.
Part B medical insurance helps pay for some services and products not covered by Part A, generally on an outpatient basis (but also when on an unadmitted observation status in a hospital). Part B is optional. It is often deferred if the beneficiary or his/her spouse is still working and has group health coverage through that employer. There is a lifetime penalty (10% per year on the premium) imposed for not enrolling in Part B when first eligible.
Because Medigap insurance plans are regulated by state and federal laws, the basic benefits offered by plans of the same letter type are generally the same regardless of insurer. The differences will be in the price and who administers the plan. Each insurer may not offer all types of plans.  Choose a health insurer you trust, and shop around for the best prices.
Helpfulness: The company takes as much guesswork as possible out of your quest for supplemental insurance. For example, you can answer a couple health questions in an online quiz that’ll match you with potential plans that may work for you. Company representatives are also available by phone seven days a week. The AARP website has a search tool to find plans in your ZIP code and a link to schedule in-person info meetings in your area if you’d rather have a face-to-face meeting.
The 10 different Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans available in most states have standardized benefits across each plan letter. For example, Medigap Plan A will have the same benefits regardless of which state you live in or which insurance company you buy from. If you live in Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, the Medigap plans in these states are standardized differently.
If you are enrolled in a Medicare plan with Part D prescription drug coverage, you may be eligible for financial Extra Help to assist with the payment of your prescription drug premiums and drug purchases. To see if you qualify for Extra Help, call: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov; the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. TTY users should call, 1-800-325-0778; or your state Medicaid Office.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce: provides beneficiaries with information about Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans and other insurance options available to them. The office is a resource for information about protection from Medicare fraud and how to report fraud. Additional links are included for federal offices that deal with Medicare and brochures that explain how to enroll in Part D Prescription Drug Plans. This government office also offers downloads of premium guides for supplemental plans available to current Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota.
If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Read our Medicare publication for more information.

Enrollment in public Part C health plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, grew from about 1% of total Medicare enrollment in 1997 when the law was passed (the 1% representing people on pre-law demonstration programs) to about 36% in 2018. Of course the absolute number of beneficiaries on Part C has increased even more dramatically on a percentage basis because of the large increase of people on Original Medicare since 1997. Almost all Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least two public Medicare Part C plans; most have access to three or more.
A 2001 study by the Government Accountability Office evaluated the quality of responses given by Medicare contractor customer service representatives to provider (physician) questions. The evaluators assembled a list of questions, which they asked during a random sampling of calls to Medicare contractors. The rate of complete, accurate information provided by Medicare customer service representatives was 15%.[100] Since then, steps have been taken to improve the quality of customer service given by Medicare contractors, specifically the 1-800-MEDICARE contractor. As a result, 1-800-MEDICARE customer service representatives (CSR) have seen an increase in training, quality assurance monitoring has significantly increased, and a customer satisfaction survey is offered to random callers.
CMS projections in 2018 estimated that the average basic premium for a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will fall to $32.50 per month this year from its $33.59 last year. But you need to look beyond the premiums to determine your total costs: Make a list of your prescription medications, then check out your plan’s formularies to make sure your drugs are covered and to learn which tier your drugs are in. (The higher the tier, the higher your copay.) And look at the costs of deductibles and coinsurance, especially if you’re taking expensive specialty drugs.
There are two ways for providers to be reimbursed in Medicare. "Participating" providers accept "assignment," which means that they accept Medicare's approved rate for their services as payment (typically 80% from Medicare and 20% from the beneficiary). Some non participating doctors do not take assignment, but they also treat Medicare enrollees and are authorized to balance bill no more than a small fixed amount above Medicare's approved rate. A minority of doctors are "private contractors" from a Medicare perspective, which means they opt out of Medicare and refuse to accept Medicare payments altogether. These doctors are required to inform patients that they will be liable for the full cost of their services out-of-pocket, often in advance of treatment.[63]

Medigap plans supplement your Original Medicare benefits, which is why these policies are also called Medicare Supplement plans. You’ll need to be enrolled in Original Medicare to be eligible for Medigap coverage, and you’ll need to stay enrolled in Original Medicare for your hospital and medical coverage. Medicare Supplement plans aren’t meant to provide stand-alone benefits.
In 2003 Congress passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law on December 8, 2003. Part of this legislation included filling gaps in prescription-drug coverage left by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act that was enacted in 1980. The 2003 bill strengthened the Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Program (WCMSA) that is monitored and administered by CMS.
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Complex rules control Part B benefits, and periodically issued advisories describe coverage criteria. On the national level these advisories are issued by CMS, and are known as National Coverage Determinations (NCD). Local Coverage Determinations (LCD) apply within the multi-state area managed by a specific regional Medicare Part B contractor (which is an insurance company), and Local Medical Review Policies (LMRP) were superseded by LCDs in 2003. Coverage information is also located in the CMS Internet-Only Manuals (IOM), the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the Social Security Act, and the Federal Register.
Medicare has four basic parts: A, B, C, and D. Taken together, Parts A (hospital care), B (doctors, medical procedures, equipment), and D (prescription drugs) provide basic coverage for Americans 65 and older. What's relevant for this article is what these parts don't cover, such as deductibles, co-pays, and other medical expenses that could wipe out your savings should you become seriously ill. That's where Part C comes in. Also known as Medicare Advantage, it's one of two ways to protect against the potentially high cost of an accident or illness. The other option is Medicare Supplement Insurance, also called Medigap coverage. Here's a look at the two options.

If you are one of millions of Americans working after 65, your employer health insurance coverage may be all you need for now. Medicare supplement open enrollment generally won’t begin for you until you enroll in Medicare Part B. If you haven’t enrolled in Part B yet, you should consider waiting to enroll until you are ready for your Medicare supplement open enrollment to begin. There are some notable exceptions for Part B and employer coverage.
"As a child, my mother told me that "change is the only constant in the world." With change being an ever constant in our lives, why is it so difficult? We all feel the weight of a stressful society, and everybody needs help from time to time. Is your reflection in the mirror unrecognizable? Does change appear impossible? Does it feel like your world is in chaos? Are you recovering from an accident? Coming out of a bad breakup? Struggling from the disease of addiction? Do you feel frozen or struggling to move forward? Does the future appear uncertain?"

Medigap plans supplement your Original Medicare benefits, which is why these policies are also called Medicare Supplement plans. You’ll need to be enrolled in Original Medicare to be eligible for Medigap coverage, and you’ll need to stay enrolled in Original Medicare for your hospital and medical coverage. Medicare Supplement plans aren’t meant to provide stand-alone benefits.
If you decide to stay with Medicare Advantage and just switch plans, use the Medicare Plan Finder tool or call Medicare (800-MEDICARE or 800-633-4227) to find out what other plans are available in your area and compare them. Here again, don’t just focus on low monthly premiums. Some plans advertise $0 premium policies. But focusing on low monthly costs alone is a mistake.
Coverage can be difficult to understand, and varies by market. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin provide their own policies for residents. The remaining 47 states in the U.S. rely on 11 standard plans that accommodate all types of health, lifestyle, and budget demands. These plans vary based coinsurance needs such as hospital stay, hospice care, travel expectations and more.
We often run into individuals who have been on Plan F for several years. Because the coverage is so good, they find themselves fearful to change carriers. The good news is that benefits for Plan F with one Medigap company will be exactly the same as benefits with a Plan F from a different company. This means you should be comparing the Medicare Plan F cost between insurance companies annually and looking for the cheapest Medigap Plan F in your area.
The first 20 days would be paid for in full by Medicare with the remaining 80 days requiring a co-payment of $167.50 per day as of 2018. Many insurance group retiree, Medigap and Part C insurance plans have a provision for additional coverage of skilled nursing care in the indemnity insurance policies they sell or health plans they sponsor. If a beneficiary uses some portion of their Part A benefit and then goes at least 60 days without receiving facility-based skilled services, the 90-day hospital clock and 100-day nursing home clock are reset and the person qualifies for new benefit periods.
Parts B and D are partially funded by premiums paid by Medicare enrollees and general U.S. Treasury revenue (to which Medicare beneficiaries contributed and may still contribute of course). In 2006, a surtax was added to Part B premium for higher-income seniors to partially fund Part D. In the Affordable Care Act's legislation of 2010, another surtax was then added to Part D premium for higher-income seniors to partially fund the Affordable Care Act and the number of Part B beneficiaries subject to the 2006 surtax was doubled, also partially to fund PPACA.
Payment for physician services under Medicare has evolved since the program was created in 1965. Initially, Medicare compensated physicians based on the physician's charges, and allowed physicians to bill Medicare beneficiaries the amount in excess of Medicare's reimbursement. In 1975, annual increases in physician fees were limited by the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). The MEI was designed to measure changes in costs of physician's time and operating expenses, adjusted for changes in physician productivity. From 1984 to 1991, the yearly change in fees was determined by legislation. This was done because physician fees were rising faster than projected. 
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