Should you consider Medicare Advantage for 2011?

If you have thought about enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, this is the time to assess your options. Carriers that are approved to offer Medicare Advantage plans can begin marketing 2011 plans October 1. The Annual Enrollment Period begins November 15 and ends December 31. It is during this time that you can submit an application for a 2011 Medicare Advantage plan.

There are several types of Advantage plans available from many different insurance companies. Most insurance companies offer more than one plan in any given service area. Enrolling in a 2011 Medicare Advantage plan is just one option. You could stay with original Medicare and purchase a Part D drug plan or purchase a Medicare supplement (Medigap) and purchase a stand-alone Part D drug plan. No one option is the best option for everyone. You must consider your circumstances when considering a 2011 Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare supplement.

Medicare Advantage – 5 points to consider
There are several factors to consider when deciding if an Advantage plan is right for you. Some factors may be of greater importance to you and there may be other considerations due to your individual circumstances.
Can you accept an annual plan? Medicare Advantage plans are annual plans. Plans can change from year to year or in some cases, Medicare Advantage plans may not renew for the following year. This is in great contrast to a Medicare supplement policy where you can make a choice and pretty much be assured that your coverage will remain the same for many years. If you don’t mind comparing Medicare Advantage plans each year during the Annual Enrollment Period, an annual plan should not be a concern.

If the plan has a provider network, is it suitable? Most Medicare Advantage plans available for 2011 will be network-based plans. Plans may include either a PPO or HMO network. If you choose a HMO, be aware that you will be required to receive service only from plan providers. A PPO will afford you greater freedom, as you are generally able to receive out-of-network services for a greater cost share, often in the form of higher co-pays. Be certain that you are happy with the network be for you make an annual commitment.

Is the plan affordable? Many Medicare Advantage plans for 2011 will require a monthly premium. Some plans in many instances, like AARP Medicare Complete, will not require a monthly premium and will include Part D drug coverage. Comparing Medicare Advantage plans is vitally important to make sure that you are getting the best Advantage plan for your situation. The cost is a big consideration for many on a fixed income and you can request information from Advantage plan carriers without obligation.

Are the out-of-pocket costs reasonable? Unlike a Medicare supplement where your out-of-pocket costs are minimized, an Advantage plan will require cost sharing in the form of co-pays, coinsurance and sometimes deductibles. You should compare plans to make sure that your out-of-pocket costs are reasonable. Benefits and costs can vary greatly from one plan to another.

Are extra benefits important to you? There are many medical services not covered by Medicare. Many people enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan to receive extra benefits such as; dental, vision, hearing, gym memberships, discounts on medical supplies and transportation. Advantage plans for 2011 will continue to include extra benefits to add value and attract members. Determine what is important to you and compare plans to find the richest benefits for you situation.

These are some of the main points to consider when deciding if a Medicare Advantage plan is right for you in 2011. Work smart and request information from several carriers to get an accurate picture of what’s available in your area.