Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is a private insurance plan that provides your Original Medicare benefits while also giving you additional benefits.
When am I eligible for Medicare Advantage?
Once you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can purchase an Advantage plan. After you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, you cannot drop either Part A or B or you will lose your Advantage Plan.
When are the enrollment periods?
You can enroll in Part C when you first get Medicare. Medicare’s initial enrollment period is three months before you turn 65 and lasts until three months after.
There is also an annual election period and an open enrollment period in which you can get an Advantage plan.
Medicare’s annual election period, or AEP, begins October 15 and runs through December 7 every year.
Medicare Advantage’s open enrollment period is from January 1 through March 31.
During this time you can switch to another MA plan or disenroll and go back to Original Medicare.
There are also special election periods.
These are triggered qualifying life events that allow you to make changes to your Medicare health coverage immediately.
Some examples that would qualify you for a special election period include unintentional loss of coverage, getting married, and moving out of your current plan’s area. But there are many things that would trigger a special election period.
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What does an Advantage plan cover?
Part C plans cover everything Parts A and B do like inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility, hospice, lab tests, surgery, home health care, outpatient care, medical equipment, and some preventative services.
However, they may also cover:
- Fitness memberships
- Nutrition programs
- Over-the-counter drugs
- Services for those with chronic conditions
- Transportation to healthcare appointments
- Wellness programs