If you choose coverage under the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program, you can generally get care from any doctor or hospital you want and receive coverage for your care anywhere in the country. However, traditional Medicare has high cost-sharing requirements and does not currently cover the costs of certain services. To help pay for uncovered benefits and to help with Medicare's cost-sharing requirements, many people in the traditional Medicare program have supplemental insurance, known as Medicare Supplements or Medigap Plans (these supplemental insurance plans fill in gaps that Medicare does not cover but unlike Medicare Part C and Part D,these plans are not part of the government Medicare program).
A Medicare Advantage plan is a type of medicare coverage offered by a private insurance company. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, all of your Medicare Part A hospital and Part B medical services are covered by the plan. In most cases, when you enroll in a MA plan, you pay a monthly premium in addition to your Medicare Part B premium, but there are benefits in doing so.
Medicare HMOs Plan
Medicare HMOs cover the same doctor and hospital services as the original Medicare program, but out-of-pocket costs for these services are usually different. HMOs appeal to some people with Medicare because they may provide additional benefits, such as eyeglasses, which are not covered by the traditional Medicare program. Medicare HMOs may charge a premium that you would need to pay in addition to the Part B monthly premium.
You should be aware that Medicare HMO enrollees generally can only use doctors, hospitals, and other providers in the HMO's network. For an additional fee, some HMOs offer point-of-service (POS) benefits that partially cover care received outside the network.
If you join a Medicare HMO, you will usually have to select a primary care doctor who is responsible for deciding when you should see a specialist and which specialist you should see.
Neither Medicare nor the HMO will pay for unauthorized visits to specialists in the plan, providers outside the HMO's network, or for non-emergency care outside the HMO's service area.
Medicare PPOs Plan
Medicare PPOs, or "Preferred Provider Organizations," are private health plans, much like Medicare HMOs. HMOs and PPOs differ in two key ways:
Medicare PPOs cover some of the costs of your care if you use doctors and hospitals outside the network.
Medicare PPOs generally do not require that you see a primary care physician before going to a specialist.
Regional PPOs became available under Medicare in 2006. These plans are similar to local Medicare PPOs, but serve a larger geographic area (either a single state or multi-state area) and must offer the same premiums, benefits, and cost-sharing requirements to all beneficiaries in the region. Regional Medicare PPOs offer all Medicare benefits, including the prescription drug benefit, but unlike traditional Medicare, these plans have a single deductible for hospital and physician services and an annual out-of-pocket limit on cost sharing for benefits covered under Parts A and B of Medicare. Keep in mind that the out-of-pocket limit will vary depending on the plan you select. As with local PPOs, individuals who sign up for a regional PPO will typically pay more if they go to providers outside of the network.
Special Needs Plans (SNPs)
Special needs plans are private plans that provide Medicare benefits, including drug coverage for beneficiaries with special needs. These include people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, those living in certain long-term care facilities (like a nursing home), and those with severe chronic or disabling conditions.
For additional information about Medicare Advantage plans, call 1-800-748-5538..
Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drugs
All companies offering Medicare Advantage plans must offer prescription drug coverage in at least one of their plans. Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage may vary in their premiums, deductibles, formularies and cost-sharing, depending on the type of Medicare Advantage plan you select.
Know What You Want from a Medicare Plan
Whether Original Medicare alone, Original Medicare plus a Medicare Supplement plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you will depend on your unique needs and circumstances. Think about what is most important to you when you are healthy and when you are sick. Here are some topics to consider:
Receiving care from the doctor and hospital of your choice
Under original Medicare, you can use whichever specialists and hospitals you choose, whenever you need, and without a referral from another doctor. Medicare private plan options could limit your ability to get care from the doctor or hospital of your choice, or there may be extra charges for out-of-network care. If provider choice is a priority, you should consider original Medicare with added protection from a Medicare Supplement insurance policy, sometimes known as Medigap, or from an employer-sponsored or union retiree health plan, if you are eligible.
Getting coverage of additional benefits to reduce your medical costs
If you are on a tight budget and are willing to limit your choice of doctors and hospitals, you may be able to reduce your health care expenses and get coverage of additional benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan. It is important to review the scope and limits of additional benefits when choosing among available plans. It is also important to look at how much your out-of-pocket costs will be if you get sick. For example, some Medicare private plans charge a copay for each day of an inpatient hospital stay, while original Medicare charges only a deductible but no daily copays for the first 60 days of a hospital stay.
Maintaining health care coverage while away from home
Under original Medicare, you will be covered for care anywhere in the United States. While private plans must cover emergency care for members outside the plan area, most do not cover other health care services while away from home. For example, Medicare HMOs have more restrictive networks of doctors and hospitals that limit coverage away from home.
Keeping supplemental coverage from a former employer or union
If you are considering joining a Medicare private plan (either a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone prescription drug plan), you should talk to your employer or former employer to be sure you won't lose valuable retiree health benefits if you sign up for a private plan. Many employers offer retiree health coverage as a supplement to traditional Medicare; some also offer coverage through Medicare HMOs and other private plan options.
Coordinating with Medicaid benefits
If your income and assets are quite modest, you may qualify for Medicaid benefits or other special programs that will help pay some of your health care costs. For those who qualify, Medicaid often pays for valuable benefits, such as nursing home care, and also pays Medicare's premiums. If you are already covered by Medicare and Medicaid, you should find out what you must pay to join a Medicare private plan and whether Medicaid will cover the plan’s copayments.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is the federal government's prescription drug program that covers both brand-name and generic prescription drugs at participating pharmacies in your area. The coverage is available to all people eligible for Medicare, regardless of income and resources, health status, or current prescription expenses. Medicare prescription drug coverage provides protection for people who have very high drug costs.
Medicare Part D plans allow seniors to receive their prescriptions at a reduced cost out of their own pockets. The plans allow common prescription medications to be covered in part or in full through the use of generics or name brand medications that are commonly prescribed to seniors. If the drugs fall into generally prescribed classes, Medicare Part D covereage kicks in.
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