What is a Massachusetts Medicare Advantage Plan?
Traditional Medicare covers about 80% of all major medical costs. It does not cover minor medical for things like vision, hearing, dental, and prescriptions. The Medicare Advantage plans available in Massachusetts can include minor medical benefits, but are not required to. Most do include coverage for prescriptions.
While it is nice to have coverage for minor medical costs, it is critical that you understand exactly what you get when you join a Medicare Advantage plan in Massachusetts. In particular, you need to know that these plans have complete control over your access to doctors and other healthcare providers. If you've ever had a managed care plan (HMO, PPO, etc.) through an employer, then you already know what to expect.
Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage
One way to better understand how different Original Medicare is from Medicare Advantage is to have a look at the pros and cons of each type of health insurance. So, let's do that.
The Pros and Cons of Massachusetts Medicare Advantage Plans vs Original Medicare
- With Medicare Advantage you must use Massachusetts healthcare providers within the plan's network. With Original Medicare, you can use the Medicare-approved provider of your choice.
- If you travel and have a medical emergency, Medicare Advantage covers you. However, if you are a snowbird and winter or summer in another state, non-emergency doctor outside of your plan's network won't be covered.
- All Medicare Advantage plans sold in Massachusetts protect you with an annual maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) limit. Once you reach this spending limit the plan pays all additional copays and coinsurance that you'd normally pay out-of-pocket. Original Medicare does not have an out-of-pocket maximum.
- Most Medicare Advantage plans come bundled with a Massachusetts Medicare Part D plan for prescription coverage. With Original Medicare, you must enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan. But, the stand-alone plans offer more choices to get lower-cost prescriptions.
- With Original Medicare your costs (copays, coinsurance, etc) are predictable, and you can get a Medicare supplement to help pay these costs. In the Medicare Advantage program, each plan can charge what they want for copays and coinsurance, making it very difficult to compare actual costs.
Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap
Most Massachusetts seniors just getting their Medicare benefits want to know which type of plan is better. We commonly see these three questions:
- Why are Medicare Advantage plans bad?
- What are the disadvantages of Medicare Advantage plans?
- Is it better to have Medicare Advantage or Medigap?
Let's take a minute or two to compare and contrast, shall we?
Why Massachusetts Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad
This is a myth. There's nothing wrong with Medicare Advantage plans. In fact, over 20 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries in Massachusetts choose Medicare Advantage.
What you really need to know is that these plans are not for everyone. Some people are better served with traditional Medicare and a Medicare supplement. The question is, which option is best for you?
A good way to figure out which coverage is best for you is to look at your health and your finances. If you have one or more chronic conditions and you can afford a supplement, traditional Medicare is likely the best option because you have the ability to choose your doctors. Conversely, if you are super healthy, or you are unable to afford a Medicare supplement, then Medicare Advantage is a viable option.
Here's the fundamental truth. Medicare plus a Medigap plan works best for people with chronic health conditions. It's also the best coverage for people who can afford a higher monthly premium, even if they rarely see a doctor.
What are the Disadvantages of Massachusetts Medicare Advantage Plans?
We have already highlighted the issue of doctor choice in Medicare Advantage. If this is not an issue for you, then consider the financial differences.
With most Medicare Advantage plans you pay a little each month (the monthly premium) and a copay when you use medical services. With most Medigap plans you pay most of your costs upfront with your monthly premium. As a result, your costs are more predictable than they might be if you have Medicare Advantage and use a lot of healthcare services
Is it better to have Medicare Advantage in Massachusetts or Medigap?
- If you can afford Medigap Plan F or G, then keep your Original Medicare and add one of these supplements.
- If you are a healthy senior and have good health in your family heritage, Medigap Plan N will let you save money by sharing some costs when you see your doctor.
- If you are a healthy senior but you cannot afford a Medigap Plan F, G, or N, Medicare Advantage is a good choice.
- If you are turning age 65, have one or more chronic health conditions that require frequent doctor visits, and you do not qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligible), the most Medigap coverage you can afford is the best option.
- If you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, regardless of your health condition, Medicare Advantage is your best option.
- If you have special needs (i.e., a full-time nursing home resident, diabetes, etc.) and an appropriate Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan (SNP) is available, this is your best option.
Frequently Asked Questions About Massachusetts Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage plans vary from County to County in Massachusetts. This is due to the local nature of healthcare provider networks. If you enter your zipcode into this tool it will show you all of your plan options and 5-star ratings.
One of the best features of Massachusetts Medicare Advantage plans is the extra benefits, including prescription drug coverage. Most plans include Part D, but not all. You can quickly see with plans offer it in your area by entering your zip code in this tool.
Some people love Medicare Advantage while others hate it. The only way to determine if it will work for you is to compare your health and financial situation with the plans available in your area. In this article you will learn how to do just that.