The Advantages and Disadvantages of Medicare
Once you qualify for Medicare, you have several options when it comes to enrolling in a plan.
You can enroll in Original Medicare, you can replace Original Medicare with a Medicare Advantage plan, or you can enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan to help offset some of Original Medicare's out-of-pocket costs.
Below, we evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option to help you choose a Medicare plan that works for you.
Original Medicare is administered and managed by the federal government. The two parts of Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) each provide coverage for different health care services.
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) covers inpatient care, including care received in a hospital and skilled nursing facility.
Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers doctors services, outpatient services, laboratory tests, preventive care and durable medical equipment.
The main advantages of enrolling in Original Medicare include:
Low monthly premiums
Medicare Part A is usually premium free for most people, and the standard premium for Part B starts at $148.50 per month in 2021 (but can be higher based on your income).
Medicare offers a wide range of flexibility when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider. Most doctors, hospitals and other health care providers in America accept Medicare.
Despite the advantages of enrolling in Original Medicare, the program also has disadvantages, which include:
Even after meeting your deductibles for premium-free Part A ($1,484 per benefit period in 2021) and Medicare Part B ($203 per year in 2021), the out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare can add up rather quickly in the form of coinsurance and copays.
Medicare Part B, for example, typically covers 80% of your medical costs, but you may be responsible for covering the remaining 20%.
No vision, dental or hearing benefits
If you receive a routine hearing test, or if you visit an eye doctor or a dentist, Original Medicare generally will not cover the cost.
Learn more about common procedures that medicare covers.
Medicare Supplement Insurance
Also called Medigap, Medicare Supplement insurance plans are sold by private insurance companies. Medigap plans do not replace your Original Medicare benefits.
Instead, they work in tandem with Medicare Part A and Part B to give you more comprehensive and predictive coverage.
The main advantages of enrolling in a Medigap plan include:
All 10 standardized Medigap plans provide at least partial coverage for:
Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs
Medicare Part B coinsurance or copayment
First three pints of blood
Hospice care coinsurance or copayment
Numerous plan options
In most states, there are 10 standardized Medigap plans to choose from, each providing a different level of basic benefits. This means there are plenty of options to ensure you find a Medigap plan that provides the level of coverage you need.
Medigap plans with comprehensive coverage (such as Medigap Plan F) may be more expensive in some areas, whereas Medigap plans with less comprehensive coverage (such as Medigap Plan A) can sometimes be less expensive. It always helps to compare Medicare Supplement quotes before applying for a plan.
You can use the 2020 Medigap plan chart below to compare the benefits that are offered by each type of plan. Use the scroll bar at the bottom of the chart to view all plans and information.
Scroll to the right to continue reading the chart
Medicare Supplement Benefits
Part A coinsurance and hospital coverage
Part B coinsurance or copayment
Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment
First 3 pints of blood
Skilled nursing facility coinsurance
Part A deductible
Part B deductible
Part B excess charges
Foreign travel emergency
* Plan F and Plan C are not available to Medicare beneficiaries who became eligible for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020. If you became eligible for Medicare before 2020, you may still be able to enroll in Plan F or Plan C as long as they are available in your area.+ Read more
1 Plans F and G offer high-deductible plans that each have an annual deductible of $2,370 in 2021. Once the annual deductible is met, the plan pays 100% of covered services for the rest of the year. The high-deductible Plan F is not available to new beneficiaries who became eligible for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020.
2 Plan K has an out-of-pocket yearly limit of $6,220 in 2021. After you pay the out-of-pocket yearly limit and yearly Part B deductible, it pays 100% of covered services for the rest of the calendar year.
3 Plan L has an out-of-pocket yearly limit of $3,110 in 2021. After you pay the out-of-pocket yearly limit and yearly Part B deductible, it pays 100% of covered services for the rest of the calendar year.
4 Plan N pays 100% of the Part B coinsurance, except for a copayment of up to $20 for some office visits and up to $50 copayment for emergency room visits that don’t result in an inpatient admission.- Read less
Although Medicare Supplement Insurance is a great option for many, it can have some disadvantages for some:
They are unavailable to those enrolled in Medicare Part A only
Medicare recipients who are not enrolled in Medicare Part B are not eligible to enroll in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan. In most cases, you become eligible for a Medigap plan when you are both 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
They may be unavailable to those who are younger than 65
Federal law does not require insurance companies to sell Medigap policies to people younger than 65, but some state laws do. Even if you are granted a Medigap policy, however, you could pay higher premiums if you are younger than 65.
Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies to replace the Part A and Part B benefits that are provided by the federal government.
By law, these plans are required to offer the same benefits as Original Medicare.
Some advantages of enrolling in Medicare Part C:
Additional Benefits are sometimes provided
Although Medicare Advantage plans must provide the same benefits as Original Medicare, some of them provide additional benefits such as dental, vision and prescription drug coverage.
Depending on your situation, the disadvantages of Medicare Part C may outweigh the advantages. Some of the main disadvantages of Medicare Advantage include:
Strict coverage rules
Many Medicare Advantage plans do not permit you to seek care from a physician outside of your plan's predetermined network of health care providers (unless it is considered an emergency).
Other Medicare Advantage plans allow you to go outside of the network, but charge you a much higher price for the service.
You may lose your plan if you move
Not all Medicare Advantage plans are available in every area. If you move to an area that is not covered by your Medicare Advantage plan, you must enroll in a different Part C plan or enroll in Original Medicare.
If you switch Medicare plans, your physician my no longer be in your plan's network.
Find Medicare Supplement Plans in Your Area
A licensed agent can help you decide on a Medicare option that works for you. Call today to speak with a licensed agent and compare the Medigap plans that are available where you live.
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Christian Worstell is a health care and policy writer for MedicareSupplement.com. He has written hundreds of articles helping people better understand their Medicare coverage options.