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November 10, 2022
Traditional Medicare or an Advantage Plan?
Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare with supplemental insurance: which should you choose?
A compelling reason so many 65-year-olds are flocking to Medicare Advantage insurance policies is that they tend to have significantly lower premiums than enrolling directly in traditional Medicare. Retirees are also inundated with advertisements on television, online and in the mail urging them to sign up for the Advantage plans, which sometimes cover vision and dental care.
But the premium alone is a superficial test for such a consequential decision. Traditional Medicare plans combined with a Medigap or Part D drug plan might, in the end, be less costly. Differences in the quality of care and the out-of-pocket costs can weigh more heavily over the long haul as retirees get older and their health declines.
The federal government spent $321 more per person in 2019 on Medicare benefits in Advantage plans than on each person enrolled directly in traditional Medicare, according to Kaiser. “The growing role of Medicare Advantage and the relatively high spending on this program raise the question of how well private plans serve their enrollees,” Kaiser said.
To shed light on the advantages and disadvantages of each route, Kaiser’s researchers combed through more than five dozen academic studies and packaged them into a report comparing the care provided under Medicare Advantage policies and traditional Medicare.
Kaiser, a healthcare non-profit, found that both choices had some important things in common, including similar levels of patient satisfaction with care, wait times, care coordination, and the ability to find a doctor or specialist.
Medicare Advantage plans are separate insurance policies, and the federal government pays the insurance company for some of the care. Traditional Medicare in this report covers people who pay the federal Medicare premium for Part A and B coverage, and people who enroll in Medicare and also buy a Medigap supplement or Part D drug policy from an insurer.
A decision made at 65 isn’t irreversible. But most retirees tend to stay put once they choose between an Advantage insurance policy and traditional Medicare. It’s also important to remember that migrating from a Medicare Advantage policy to a Medigap supplement is more difficult than going from Medigap to Medicare Advantage.
Here’s a rundown of the most salient differences in cost and care in Kaiser’s summary. But this is a complicated decision, and many of the findings are subtle. So read the full report to understand the nuances. …Learn More