Part C – Medicare Advantage Plans – Reasons to choose one, enrolling, and leaving Medicare Advantage plans

Reasons to choose an Advantage Plan

Qualified Medicare participants choose to participate in an Advantage Plan for many reasons. As we have already mentioned, Medicare Advantage offers additional coverage that original Medicare doesn’t have, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most also include prescription drug coverage. Additionally, Medical Advantage plans also provide coverage for emergency and urgent care. Keep in mind that these additional coverages often come with additional monthly premiums that the participants are responsible for. In addition to your Part B premium, Medical Advantage participants usually pay a copayment or coinsurance for covered services, and as well as a monthly premium.

Many Medicare beneficiaries have a wider array of health plan options from which they can choose, when they enroll in a Medicare Advantage HMO or PPO. These plans typically offer Medicare recipients benefits at a lower cost because enrollees can only get covered health care through the plan’s network of providers. This restriction allows the insurance company to “manage” the costs. The result is that participants are allowed to obtain the best coverage they can get at a cost they can afford.

Enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan

Participants who enroll in a Medicare Advantage program will continue to receive all Original Medicare covered services. Additionally, you may be able to lower your out-of-pocket costs and also receive extra benefits and services that are not offered by Original Medicare. Whether or not you save money, as well as the number and type of extra benefits and services you receive is dependent upon which Medicare Advantage plan you sign up for.

Note: Private insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans have the freedom to change the plans’ benefits on an annual basis. They can also decide whether or not they choose to continue participating in Medicare; they can join or leave the Medicare program at any time.

Qualified Medicare recipients must be entitled to Medicare Part A and be enrolled in Part B in order to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Most recipients do not realize that not all plans are available in all areas. You can only enroll in a plan that is available in your area. Qualified individuals can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan when they first become eligible, if they are new to Medicare.

Your initial eligibility time frame is a seven-month period called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). It begins three months before your birthday month (if your birthday falls on the first of the month, your birthday month is the previous month), includes your birthday month, and the three months after your birthday month.

Thereafter, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can only make changes to the plan or adopt a different plan during scheduled times called enrollment periods.

 One enrollment period is called the Annual Coordinated Election Period (AEP) and occurs from October 15 to December 7 of each year. During this time period, anyone with Medicare can make changes to their coverage such as selecting a new Medicare health plan and/or a Medicare prescription drug plan. Any changes made during this time will take effect July 1. For more information, go to Medicare.gov or call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Leaving a Medical Advantage Plan

As of January 1, 2011, there is no longer an Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Instead, there is now the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). The MADP runs from January 1 through February 14. Participants can disenroll from their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare during the MADP. By disenrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan, individuals may also enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug plan, whether or not their Medicare Advantage plan included prescription drug coverage. They are also then eligible to apply for a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy.

Participants may also qualify to leave their Medicare Advantage plan if they become eligible for a Special Election Period (SEP).

 Some examples of special election period qualifications are:

  • That you are in a MA plan that is leaving Medicare.
  • Your Medigap insurance company goes bankrupt and you lose your coverage.
  • You are in a MA plan and you move out of the plan’s service area.
  • You live in a Long Term Care Facility (e.g., a nursing home or rehabilitation hospital).
  • You are losing Employer or Union Group Health Coverage.

 

 

Sources used for this article:

http://www.medicare.gov/navigation/medicare-basics/medicare-benefits/part-c.aspx

http://www.medicare.org/medicare-basics/part-c.html

http://www.medicare.org/medicare-basics/part-c.html

 

 

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