We are in the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period and this may be the only time this year that you can change your current plan. What’s the better option – original Medicare (Parts A & B) or Medicare Advantage (Part C)?

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are usually less expensive for seniors than the combination of Medicare Part B coverage, Part D drug insurance, and Medicare Supplement (usually referred to as Medigap). And many times, MA plans offer more benefits such as vision and dental care, transportation services, or fitness plan memberships.

How do these two forms of Medicare compare?

A recent study from the Better Medicare Alliance found that in 2019, out-of-pocket costs averaged $3,524 for Medicare Advantage plan members compared to $5,489 for those in traditional Medicare. The difference was similar among most ethnic backgrounds and racial groups.

In September of 2022, KFF (a non-profit, non-partisan source of information for policymakers, the healthcare community, the media, and the general public) published a report that examined 62 peer-reviewed studies that compared Medicare Advantage with traditional Medicare since over the last six years:

“We found few differences between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare… Both Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare beneficiaries reported similar rates of satisfaction… and care coordination. Medicare Advantage outperformed traditional Medicare on some measures, such as use of preventive services, having a usual source of care, and lower hospital readmission rates.”

The decision to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan is just the first of many decisions. Once the choice has been made, then one must decide which plan to purchase. Each is different. They all have a range of premiums and out-of-pocket maximums and they may have different medications included in the plans as well.

Even with all these variables, KFF notes:

“Medicare Advantage enrollees were more likely than traditional Medicare [enrollees] to receive preventive care services, such as annual wellness visits and routine checkups, screenings, and flu or pneumococcal vaccines…”

Medicare Advantage plans continue to provide effective preventive care and critical cost protections to enrollees – even in comparison with original Medicare recipients.

Is there a preference?

When compared, enrollees in the two programs report similar levels of satisfaction with their overall care. Despite these similarities, beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage spend nearly $2,000 less on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. The differences are even more apparent when looking at the lowest-income beneficiaries.

In the past five years alone, Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown nearly 40 percent – which speaks to the increasing popularity of the program. Medicare Advantage plans can meet the diverse and complex needs of most enrollees.

Supplemental benefit flexibility and expanded telehealth opportunities are just two examples of Medicare Advantage benefits and tools that have improved access for enrollees and closed gaps in care. This has enabled plans to support customers’ well-being in a cost-effective way.

Are you considering making a change to a Medicare Advantage plan? Do you want to know if you qualify for benefits you aren’t receiving? Click here to take our short quiz, or give us a call 855-515-5087 to see what benefits you may qualify for.