Many of us are aware of the benefits of Medicare, and we have heard of Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans. However, knowing the differences between them can be confusing. If you’ve been curious about learning more, it’s best to start with the basics.

Medicare

Medicare comes in four primary parts — A, B, C, and D — so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Thankfully, it can be as straightforward as breaking down A into hospital care, and B into medical care. So, A allows you to use the hospital, while B provides for doctor appointments, outpatient therapies, and lab work. Both are recommended, yet they are not enough for complete coverage. To go one step further, Part D covers the costs of prescription medication, but, like Part B, it has an additional monthly charge. On average, B will cost $135.50 per month, and D runs at around $34, putting your total monthly payments at $219. However, even with these three Parts, there may still be coverage shortfalls that Part C and Medigap can address.

Medigap

Because of those issues, Medigap was created to offer further protection. Unfortunately, navigating Medigap can also be tricky, as it too comes with multiple parts. Even worse, the two most popular options, C and F, are expected to disappear in 2020. Thankfully, Parts D and G are almost identical, respectively, to C and F. This leaves Plans G and N as the most comprehensive choices, but also the ones with the highest monthly payments. If you think you’ll need maximum coverage, then it may be best to choose one of the two.

Medicare Advantage

Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage is an alternative to Medigap that can offer extra protection. To qualify, you need to be enrolled in both Medicare Parts A and B, but your coverage will come from your Advantage plan. However, you have the added benefit of often having dental, vision and prescription coverage being part of your plan. Some even give access to the SilverSneakers fitness program, helping to keep you fit and healthy for longer. Best of all, you have a cap to how much you pay out of pocket each year. This is one of the biggest benefits, especially if you anticipate needing extra medical care.

Choosing a Plan

Often, Medicare Advantage plans have lower monthly costs than Medigap. Of course, no one can see into the future to determine what plan will suit them best in the long term. Yet, Medicare Advantage plans are usually a safe choice for those with family histories of good health, coupled with a low risk of developing an age-related disease. In contrast, if your family suffers from various medical conditions, or you find yourself in poor health, it may be better to purchase a Medigap policy. Though your monthly costs might be higher, your payments will be lower.

How and When to Sign Up

Medicare and retirement go hand in hand, but now that the age of retirement has been pushed back, it’s good to know that the time to sign up has not. That means when you turn 65, it’s time to enroll. In fact, you actually have three months prior to your 65th birthday, and then seven months after, to pick your plan. Even if you have insurance through an employer, you should still sign up, as putting it off could result in higher premiums later on. To do so, you can call the Social Security Administration, or use their website, to register. Whether or not you’re close to retiring, you should still sign up to get your benefits at a reduced rate.

 

By understanding healthcare your options, you can make an informed decision that will suit your needs. No matter what those may be, you can find a plan perfect for you.