14 Added Advantages within the New Medicare Benefit Plans
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com
For seniors considering moving from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan during the current Medicare Open Registration Period – which runs through December 7 -, choosing a plan could be more difficult than ever.
The number of Medicare Advantage plans for 2022 is greater than ever, according to a new analysis by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). There are 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans nationwide for 2022, an 8% increase from 2021.
However, that doesn’t mean seniors will have so many plans to choose from. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private health insurers, so availability of plans can vary widely from country to country.
According to the KFF analysis, seniors in a given location will have, on average, access to 39 Medicare Advantage plans for 2022. That is 33 plans for 2021 and the highest average number of plans available in more than a decade.
In addition to the availability of the plan in their area, any “additional” benefits associated with a plan are another factor that helps seniors narrow down their Medicare Advantage options.
Medicare Advantage plans must offer the same benefits as traditional Medicare. But Medicare Advantage plans can provide additional benefits that traditional Medicare doesn’t – and many do.
The following “extra” benefits are offered, for example, by individual Medicare Advantage plans for 2022 according to the KFF analysis:
- Eye exams and / or glasses: Provided by 98% of the plans
- Fitness benefit: 97%
- Telemedicine: 95%
- Hearing tests and / or hearing aids: 95%
- Dental benefit: 94%
- Insurance coverage for prescription drugs: 89%
- Over-the-counter benefits (for items such as adhesive or elastic bandages): 81%
- Food advantage (e.g. cooking class, nutrition education or food distribution): 67%
- Transport advantages: 38%
- acupuncture: 36%
- Home support services: 10%
- Safety devices in the bathroom: 8th%
- Telemonitoring services: 3%
- Support for Medicare Participant Nurses: 3%
What is the Difference Between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage?
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage are the two main types of Medicare.
Original Medicare is the traditional Medicare program offered directly by the federal government. Medicare Advantage plans are an all-in-one alternative offered by private insurance companies.
Choosing between these two options is perhaps the biggest decision Medicare beneficiaries face. They must make it when they first enroll in Medicare and they have the option to switch from one Medicare type to another during the open enrollment periods.
Original Medicare is currently the more popular of the two main options. In 2020, 40% of all Medicare members opted for a Medicare Advantage plan, according to the latest annual report from the Medicare Board of Trustees.
However, Medicare Advantage plans are growing in popularity. In 2004, only 12.8% of all Medicare members chose a Medicare Advantage plan.
Use caution when switching from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage
Although Medicare Advantage plans are often viewed as a cheaper alternative to Original Medicare, the decision to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage should not be taken lightly.
Medicare Advantage is not for everyone, and switching to Medicare Advantage can be risky.
For example, one disadvantage of Medicare Advantage plans is that they may limit them to a specific network of doctors. So if you switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, you may no longer be able to see the same doctor and still cover doctor visits.
Government analysis also suggests that seniors with poorer health have more problems with access to health care or the quality of care under Medicare Advantage plans.
Also, according to a 2018 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, these plans require prior approval more often than original Medicare. As we explain in “8 Services Not Covering Medicare Advantage Without Prior Approval”:
“Prior authorization requires participants to obtain approval of the plan before accessing a particular health care service. If the plan does not approve the service in advance, the plan cannot pay for the service – and the patient remains hooked for the cost. “
Switching to Medicare Advantage is also risky for Original Medicare seniors who are also paying for an additional Medicare policy, also known as a Medigap policy.
If these seniors later decide to switch back to Original Medicare, they may not necessarily get the same Medigap policy back – or a new Medigap policy at all. We explain this further in “4 Pitfalls for First Time Medicare Applicants”.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.