Q. I keep hearing about Medicare Advantage plans. How are they different than Medicare and the Medicare Supplement I have currently?
A. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance companies providing your Medicare services. By law, all services available with original Medicare must also be available with all Medicare Advantages. If you have original Medicare A and B, Medicare leaves you with copays and deductibles that are your responsibility to pay. If you purchase an additional private insurance Medicare supplement, many, if not all of those co-pays and deductibles will be paid by your supplemental insurance. Most Medicare Advantage monthly premiums tend to be cheaper than Medicare supplement’s monthly premiums. With a Medicare Advantage, you will face a cost share or co-pay for most Medicare services you use. The cost per service can vary based on the provider company and the type of service. Generally, it is not more than what original Medicare has folks pay. But you will have to pay something for most services with some exceptions, such as preventative care. Medicare Advantages often include prescription drug coverage as part of their medical package. Some Medicare Advantages provide services that original Medicare doesn’t provide, such as routine eye exams, assistance with preventative dental care and even health club memberships. If you would like assistance to see which type of Medicare insurance is a better fit for your lifestyle, a visit to your local SHIP counselor can help you explore your options.
Q. Is it important that I think about a Medicare Advantage now?
A. Yes, we are soon going to be in the annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantages, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. This is the annual period when you can change or join Medicare D plans or Medicare Advantage. Local SHIP counselors will be providing a limited number of one-on-one counseling sessions to help you identify your options from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. In Yellowstone County, call 259-5212 to begin the 2013 review process. Call 800-551-3191 to reach a SHIP counselor in other areas. 800-MEDICARE is also available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for phone counseling. All counselors are going to need personal information, including your Medicare number and a list of your medications, including dosages and quantity.
Send your questions about Medicare or Medicaid to: SHIP Program c/o Yellowstone County Council on Aging, PO Box 20895, Billings, MT 59104, or email@example.com.
Questions are answered by the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), an objective, nonprofit counseling, assistance and advocacy service sponsored by DPHHS of Montana and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.