What is a Washington Medicare Advantage Plan?
Unlike Original Medicare, which only covers major medical, a Medicare Advantage plan can include many extras, including prescriptions, vision, hearing, dental, and fitness, just to name a few. And, good news, they are available in Washington.
Althought the extra benefits are nice to have, it's important to fully understand what you're getting if you join a Medicare Advantage plan in Washington. Specifically, Medicare Advantage is managed care health insurance and the plan controls your access to healthcare providers. If you have ever had an HMO plan through your employer's group health insurance, you have a good idea of what managed care is all about.
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 Washington Medicare Advantage Plans vs Original Medicare
- With Medicare Advantage you must use Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad
First things first. Medicare Advantage plans are not bad. More than 20% of all Medicare beneficiaries in Washington 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.
Are There Disadvantages to Joining a Medicare Advantage Plan in Washington?
As you have already read, both Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare have their benefits. But the two types of coverage are like apples and oranges. However, if you remove the issue of doctor choice from the equation, the primary difference is when and how you pay.
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 Washington 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 Washington Medicare Advantage Plans
Washington 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 Washington 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.
While not for everyone, Medicare Advantage plans have their benefits. The best way to understand these plans is to evaluate your health and financial situation. Here is an article that will help you make the right choice.