What is a Virginia Medicare Advantage Plan?
The advantages of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are found in what they can cover that Original Medicare cannot. Specifically, the MA plans available in Virginia can include minor healthcare benefits such as prescriptions, vision, hearing, dental, fitness, telehealth, and more. In contrast, Original Medicare only covers major medical healthcare services.
Many people love the extra benefits they get with their MA plan. However, before you jump in with both feet, take the time to fully understand the trade-offs. The extra benefits and perks are nice, but they come at a cost. Specifically, when you join a Medicare Advantage plan in Virginia you are agreeing to accept the plan's managed care health system. As an MA plan member, you agree to let the plan be a gatekeeper and fully control your access to doctors and other healthcare providers.
Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare: Is There a Big Difference?
The best way to understand the differences between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare is to evaluate the pros and cons of each type of coverage.
The Pros and Cons of Virginia Medicare Advantage Plans vs Original Medicare
- With Medicare Advantage you must use Virginia 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 Virginia 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 Virginia 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.
Medigap vs. Medicare Advantage
Three of the most common questions we get are:
- 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 answer these three questions right now.
Why Virginia Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad
First things first. Medicare Advantage plans are not bad. More than 20% of all Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia have a Medicare Advantage plan. But, it's not for everyone.
In particular, if you have one or more chronic conditions, Original Medicare could be a better option because you have the ability to choose your doctors. MedicareWire believes that Medicare Advantage is the best option for healthy people and for people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
Conversely, Original Medicare and a Medicare supplement work best for people with chronic health conditions (based on overall cost), as well as those who can afford a higher monthly premium, even when they are well.
What are the Disadvantages of Virginia 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.
Medicare Advantage plans have a monthly premium, but it's generally less than a Medicare supplement, and some plans even have a $0 premium. But, you also pay when you use health care. These are the copays.
With a Medicare supplement plan you pay most of your costs in advance with monthly premiums. Depending on the level of coverage you choose, the plan can cover all of your copays, coinsurance, and deductibles except the annual Part B deductible. This makes your monthly healthcare costs more predictable, particularly if or when you have serious health problems.
Which is Best in Virginia, Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Insurance?
- 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 Virginia Medicare Advantage Plans
Virginia Medicare Advantage plans are not statewide, they are local. So, the only way to answer this question is to enter your zipcode here.
Most Medicare Advantage plans available in Virginia include a Part D plan, but not all. Before joining a plan, be sure to check that all of your most important medications are covered. You can do that with 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.