What Are Your Medicare Coverage Options?

What Are Your Medicare Coverage Options?

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

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Your Medicare coverage options begin with choosing between Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and Medicare Advantage (Part C). Additional coverage can be added on to Original Medicare, while Medicare Advantage is an all-in-one bundle.

What are your Medicare options?

There are four parts of Medicare (A, B, C, D) and an additional category of Medicare Supplement plans. Each component provides a different type of coverage and provides benefits for a different set of services.

  • Medicare Part A: Hospital and inpatient coverage
  • Medicare Part B: Doctors and outpatient coverage
  • Medicare Part C: Bundled plans with multiple types of coverage
  • Medicare Part D: Prescription drug coverage
  • Medicare Supplement: Add-on coverage to reduce your medical costs after Parts A and B

How are Medicare coverage options combined?

There are two ways to combine the parts of Medicare. With Original Medicare, you start with Parts A and B, which are provided directly by the government, and add on additional plans to have a full set of benefits for both medical care and prescriptions.

The other option is to get a bundled Medicare Advantage plan from a private insurance company.

Original Medicare

  • Parts A and B: Basic medical benefits
  • Part D: Add-on prescription coverage
  • Medigap: Add-on medical benefits

Medicare Advantage

  • Part C: You only need one plan because the bundle from a private insurer includes the medical services covered by Parts A & B, and usually prescriptions and perks.

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing between the managed care benefits of Medicare Advantage versus the fee-for-service benefits of Original Medicare.

Original Medicare gives you access to most of the doctors in the country, and even though Medigap plans are expensive, they can eliminate most medical expenses, making them a good deal for those who have ongoing health problems.

In contrast, Medicare Advantage includes add-ons like dental and vision coverage that aren't available through Original Medicare, but plans have more restrictions about how you get your medical care including a limited network of doctors and needing referrals or preauthorizations.

Learn more: Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap

What are your options within each part of Medicare?

Each part of Medicare may have multiple plans available. Learn more about your options within Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D and Medigap.

Part A: Hospitalization

hospital icon

With Medicare Part A, hospitalization and inpatient coverage is standardized nationally and is administered by the government. This means the benefits and access to care are the same no matter where you live.

You don't need to make any coverage decisions or choose any plans. Medicare Part A is free for 99% of enrollees, and the most important thing to remember is to enroll on time to avoid penalties.

Learn more: How does Medicare Part A work?

Part B: Doctors and outpatient care

stethoscope icon

Medicare Part B also provides standardized coverage across the nation, offering the same set of benefits and access for all enrollees.

You won't have any enrollment decisions for plans or coverage. However, the cost of Part B can vary based on your situation. The standard rate is currently $170.10 per month, which is what most people pay. However, high-income earners pay more each month while those who have a low income can qualify for savings.

There is also a penalty for late enrollment, except in circumstances when you're still working past age 65 and have qualified coverage through your employer.

Learn more: How does Medicare Part B work?

Part C (Medicare Advantage): Bundled coverage

insurance plan icon

These all-in-one plans combine multiple types of coverage in a plan that's provided by a private insurance company.

There is a wide variety of plan options including different companies and coverage levels. The plan you choose will determine how much you pay for medical care and which doctors will be the cheapest.

The available plans change based on where you live, and on average, shoppers can choose from 25 different plans. To start comparing your options, we recommend first using Medicare.gov or a plan comparison tool to see what plans are offered in your area.

Then compare companies to find a well-rated insurer that offers affordable rates and has your preferred doctors in their network.

Learn more: How does Medicare Part C work?

Best Medicare Advantage plans

Among the five most popular insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans, Kaiser Permanente has the highest overall ratings on Medicare.gov, while Aetna has the lowest average cost.

Monthly cost
Kaiser Permanente Medicare logo
Kaiser Permanente
UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medicare Advantage logo
BlueCross BlueShield  logo
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Humana Medicare Advantage logo
Aetna logo

Find plans in your area

Learn more about our picks for the Best Medicare Advantage plans

Part D: Prescriptions

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Medicare Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies, and available options change by location.

Part D plans provide prescription coverage that's used alongside the medical benefits of Original Medicare (Parts A and B). For those enrolling in Medicare Advantage, you can get prescription coverage included in your coverage bundle, and you usually won't be able to sign up for a standalone Part D plan.

All Part D plans are required to cover all essential medication categories. However, the plan you choose will determine how much you pay for prescriptions as well as the specific drugs that are covered.

Your Part D plan options depend on your location, and the first step when shopping is to find out which plans are offered in your area. When comparing options, it’s helpful to look at total annual spending for both the plan and your medications. Someone who needs expensive medications may get the best deal by paying more for better coverage, and a cheap plan is often the best choice for those who need minimal or generic medications.

Learn more: How does Medicare Part D work?

Best Medicare Part D plans

The top-rated insurer for Medicare Part D plans is Kaiser Permanente, according to overall ratings by Medicare.gov. However, moderate star ratings are much more common for Part D plans than Medicare Advantage plans, and 89% of Part D enrollees have a plan that's 3.5 or 4 stars.

Monthly cost
Kaiser Permanente Medicare logo
Kaiser Permanente
UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medicare Advantage logo
BlueCross BlueShield  logo
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Humana Medicare Advantage logo
CVS Health  logo
CVS/ Silver Script

Find plans in your area

Learn more about our picks for the Best Medicare Part D plans

Medicare Supplement (Medigap): Extra coverage

health insurance icon

Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) reduces what you'll directly pay for medical care by providing additional coverage beyond the basic medical benefits of Parts A and B.

There are 10 plan options available, named A through N, and the benefits are standardized by plan letter. This means when choosing a Medigap plan, you'll select both the level of coverage you want from a company that has good ratings and affordable rates for your situation.

It's important to sign up for Medigap during your initial enrollment period because during this time, your application can’t be denied, and you won’t pay more because of your medical history.

Best Medicare Supplement plans

Aetna has the cheapest overall rates for Medigap Plan G. However, rates can vary widely by location. For new enrollees, Medigap Plan G and Plan N are popular choices that provide the best coverage.

Plans offered
Average cost of Plan G
Aetna logo
AetnaA, B, F, G, N, high-deductible F$117
UnitedHealthcare/AARP Medicare Advantage logo
AARP/UHCA, B, C, F, G, K, L, N$159
Cigna Medicare logo
CignaA, F, G, N and high-deductible F$179

Rates for a 65-year-old female nonsmoker

Find plans in your area

Learn more about our picks for the Best Medicare Supplement plans

Frequently asked questions

How many companies sell Medicare Advantage plans?

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by 223 companies and subsidiaries, including the 10 largest health insurance companies in the country. However, the available options change by location. Shoppers have an average of six companies and 25 plans to choose from.

What’s the best insurance company for Medicare?

Kaiser Permanente has received 5 stars for both its Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. However, there are some downsides such as a restricted network of doctors and limited availability. Another top option is AARP/UnitedHealthcare, which is the most popular Medicare company across all products. AARP plans typically balance affordable plans with good ratings.

What medical costs are not covered by Medicare?

Original Medicare only covers medically necessary medical care. This means there's no coverage for dental care, vision, long-term care or prescription drugs. Additional coverage, such as a Part D plan for prescriptions and a dental insurance plan, can be added on to this. You can also choose a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles your medical benefits with extras that go beyond Original Medicare.

How do you start comparing your Medicare coverage options?

The first step is to choose how you want to get your coverage by deciding between a bundled Medicare Advantage plan versus Original Medicare with Medigap. This decision will affect what portion of medical costs you pay, which doctors you have access to, who administers your benefits and more.

Sources and methodology

Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D costs and star ratings are averages of nationwide data based on public use files from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Medicare Supplement costs are averaged from sample locations using Medicare.gov. Rates are based on a 65-year-old female nonsmoker and include estimates from states that have age-based price increases and states where age is not used to determine premiums.

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Invitations for application for insurance may be made through QW Insurance Solutions, LLC ("QWIS"), a subsidiary of QuoteWizard.com, LLC ("QuoteWizard"), a LendingTree subsidiary, or through its designated agents, only where licensed and appointed. Licensing information for QWIS can be found here. QWIS is a non-government licensed health insurance agency. Not affiliated with or endorsed by any government agency.

Callers to QWIS will be directed to a licensed and certified representative of Medicare Supplement insurance and/or Medicare Advantage HMO, HMO SNP, PPO, PPO SNP and PFFS organizations. Calls to QWIS will be routed to a licensed agent who can provide you with further information about the insurance plans offered by one or more third-party partners of QWIS. Each of the organizations they represent has a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any plan depends on contract renewal.

Availability of benefits and plans varies by carrier and location and may be limited to certain times of the year unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. QWIS does not offer every plan available in your area. Any information provided is limited to those plans offered in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.

Deductibles, copays, coinsurance, limitations, and exclusions may apply.

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