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October 20, 2023
When you initially enroll in Medicare and during specific periods throughout the year, you have the opportunity to select your preferred Medicare coverage options. This information can assist you in comparing different coverage options and making an informed decision about which coverage best suits your needs.

When it comes to Medicare, it's important to understand that Original Medicare alone does not cover everything. While it provides a solid foundation for healthcare coverage, there are certain gaps that beneficiaries need to be aware of. In this article, we will dive into the different types of Medicare coverage and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Coverage type


  • Federal health insurance program for eligible individuals age 65 and older and some younger individuals with disabilities.
  • Comprises two parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance).
  • Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, and some home healthcare services.
  • Part B covers doctor visits, outpatient services, preventive care, and medically necessary supplies.
  • Beneficiaries generally pay a monthly premium for Part B coverage.
  • Beneficiaries are responsible for deductible and coinsurance costs.
  • Allows beneficiaries to choose their healthcare providers.
  • May require beneficiaries to pay additional costs for services not covered by Medicare.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans, also referred to as Part C or MA Plans, are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare.
  • They combine the benefits of Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) and may offer additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage, dental, vision, and hearing care, and fitness programs.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans have their own network of healthcare providers and may require beneficiaries to use only in-network providers, except in emergencies.
  • Beneficiaries must continue to pay the monthly Part B premium in addition to any premium charged by the Medicare Advantage Plan.
  • Costs, coverage, and rules for Medicare Advantage Plans can vary widely, so beneficiaries should compare plans before choosing one.
  • By law, Medicare Advantage Plans must cover all of the same services that Original Medicare covers, except hospice care, which Part A still covers.
  • Most Medicare Advantage Plans include prescription drug coverage (Part D).
  • Beneficiaries may be able to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, or vice versa, or switch between Medicare Advantage Plans during open enrollment
  • Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies to help cover some of the costs that Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn't pay, such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.
  • There are standardized Medigap plans labeled with letters (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N) in most states, with each plan offering a specific set of benefits.
  • Medigap plans are designed to work alongside Original Medicare and cannot be used with Medicare Advantage Plans.
  • All Medigap plans with the same letter offer the same basic benefits, although the costs may vary from one insurance company to another.
  • Medigap plans labeled C and F provide coverage for the Medicare Part B deductible, which is no longer available to people who become eligible for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020.
  • Medigap plans may offer additional benefits like foreign travel emergency coverage, preventive care, and at-home recovery benefits.
  • Beneficiaries must have both Medicare Part A and Part B to be eligible to purchase a Medigap plan.
  • Medigap policies generally require beneficiaries to pay a monthly premium in addition to the Part B premium.
  • It is important to enroll in a Medigap plan during the open enrollment period to guarantee the right to purchase any Medigap plan sold in the state, regardless of health conditions.
  • Medicare Part D is the prescription drug coverage program offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare.
  • It helps Medicare beneficiaries pay for their prescription medications.
  • Medicare Part D plans are available to people who are eligible for Medicare, have Medicare Part A and/or Part B, and live in the plan's service area.
  • Part D plans have a formulary, which is a list of covered prescription drugs.
  • Different Part D plans may have different formularies, so it's important to review the specific medications covered by each plan.
  • Part D plans typically have monthly premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing, such as copayments or coinsurance for prescription medications.
  • The costs of Part D plans can vary, so it's important to compare plans to find one that fits your needs and budget.
  • Part D plans often have a coverage gap, also known as the "donut hole," during which beneficiaries pay a higher percentage of the costs for their medications.
  • Low-income beneficiaries may qualify for extra help to pay for their Part D premiums, deductibles, and copayments through the Extra Help program.
  • Beneficiaries can enroll in a Part D plan during their Initial Enrollment Period, Annual Election Period, or Special Enrollment Periods, depending on their circumstances.

Please note that the information provided is a general overview and it's recommended to consult official sources or contact Medicare directly for more detailed information

Original Medicare:

Original Medicare, consisting of Part A and Part B, is administered directly by the federal government. Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health services. Part B covers doctor visits, outpatient care, preventive services, and durable medical equipment. However, it's crucial to note that Original Medicare has deductibles and copayments that beneficiaries are responsible for.

For instance, in 2024, the Part A deductible is $1,632 per benefit period. This means that if you are admitted to the hospital, you would be responsible for the first $1,632 of your care. Additionally, there are daily coinsurance amounts for hospital stays exceeding 60 days. Similarly, Part B comes with a standard monthly premium ($174.70 in 2024), an annual deductible ($240 in 2024), and coinsurance or copayments for most services.

Medicare Advantage:

To bridge the coverage gaps and provide additional benefits, many individuals opt for Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans. These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you are still considered to be on Medicare, but your benefits are administered by the private company.

Medicare Advantage plans often include coverage for services that Original Medicare does not. These extra benefits can include dental care, vision care, hearing aids, gym memberships, over-the-counter allowances, and more. Many Advantage plans do include prescription drug coverage (Part D) as part of their package.

While Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits, it's important to be aware of the trade-offs. Unlike Original Medicare, Advantage plans typically have networks that you must adhere to. This means that you may be required to use doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers within the plan's network. Additionally, you will likely need to pay copayments and deductibles for services rendered.

However, Medicare Advantage plans provide a safety net in the form of a maximum out-of-pocket expense (MOOP) cap. Once you reach this cap, the plan will cover all additional costs for the remainder of the year. This feature provides financial protection for beneficiaries, as it limits their potential out-of-pocket expenses.

One attractive aspect of Medicare Advantage plans is that they can have premiums as low as $0. This affordability factor makes them an appealing option for individuals on a tight budget who still desire comprehensive coverage beyond what Original Medicare offers.

Medicare Supplement:

On the other hand, Medicare Supplement coverage, also known as Medigap, is designed to complement Original Medicare. These plans, sold by private insurance companies, come in different standardized lettered options, such as Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and so on. Each plan offers a different set of benefits, allowing beneficiaries to pick the one that best suits their individual needs.

The purpose of Medicare Supplements is to pick up where Original Medicare leaves off. These plans cover copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles associated with Part A and Part B services. With certain Medigap plans, beneficiaries may have little to no copays or deductibles for Medicare-covered services, providing them with greater financial certainty.

Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplements DO NOT have limited networks. Beneficiaries can typically visit any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare patients without needing a referral. This provides more flexibility and choice when it comes to healthcare providers.

Another advantage of certain Medigap plans is coverage overseas. Some plans offer emergency medical coverage when beneficiaries are traveling outside the United States. This can provide peace of mind for individuals who frequently travel internationally.

It's important to note that you cannot have both a Medicare Supplement and a Medicare Advantage plan at the same time. The two types of coverage are not compatible. It is crucial to carefully evaluate your options and consider your personal needs and situation before deciding which route to take.

Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D is a prescription drug coverage program offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. This optional coverage is designed to help Medicare beneficiaries afford the cost of prescription medications. Part D plans are available to individuals with Original Medicare, as well as those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans that do not include prescription drug coverage. These plans typically have a formulary, which is a list of covered medications, along with different tiers and cost-sharing structures. It's important for beneficiaries to review and compare Part D plans based on factors such as monthly premiums, annual deductibles, copayments or coinsurance, and the network of pharmacies available. By enrolling in Medicare Part D, individuals can gain access to affordable medications and protect themselves against high out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.

In summary, one type of coverage is not inherently better than the other. Original Medicare offers a solid foundation but has deductibles and copayments that can add up. Medicare Advantage plans provide additional benefits but come with network limitations and potential cost-sharing. Medicare Supplements fill the gaps in Original Medicare and provide more flexibility but may come with higher premiums.

Ultimately, your personal needs and situation will play a significant role in determining which plan may be best for you. Consider your healthcare needs, budget, preferred providers, and willingness to navigate networks when you weigh your options. Take the time to research and compare plans to make an informed decision that suits your individual requirements and aspirations for healthcare coverage.

You can get personalized health insurance counseling at no cost to you from your local Lehigh Partners Senior Benefits Agent.

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