Most people are happy to become eligible for Medicare benefits upon reaching their 65th birthday. For some, this means they can retire knowing that their health care needs are covered. For others, who are already retired, it means that they can drop their other, more expensive health insurance plan.

And yet, you might find that your Original Medicare plan does not cover all of your medical expenses. If you’re responsible for co-payments, deductibles, or the high price of prescription medications, adding a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan can help you reduce your out-of-pocket health care expenditures.

Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans can both help you save money, but they are very different types of health insurance plans. A Supplement plan is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a supplement to your Original Medicare plan. Those who are enrolled in Original Medicare can add a supplementary plan to reduce co-payments and deductibles, but the Supplement plan will not help with the cost of prescriptions. (A Medicare Part D plan can help you reduce your prescription drug expenses.)

By contrast, a Medicare Advantage plan replaces Original Medicare. You can enroll in one or the other, but not both types of insurance. Medicare Advantage plans are essentially privatized health insurance plans that offer at least the same amount of coverage as Original Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans can vary significantly from one insurance company to the next. Therefore, you should be very careful when you compare different Medicare Advantage plans. It can be difficult to choose from the wide variety of Advantage plans on the market, but it is possible to include all of the benefits you need in one plan (such as dental, hearing, vision, and prescription drug coverage).

As you navigate the maze of different Medicare options, keep in mind that your preferred care providers might not accept every type of plan. Medicare Supplement plans are accepted anywhere that also accepts Original Medicare. But enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan means you will be part of a PPO or HMO network of providers. Investigate whether your favorite doctor or hospital will be covered under a prospective new plan, unless you would be willing to switch care providers.

As always, you can call our office if you have any questions about Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plans. We can help you sort through your options and locate the option that works best for your situation.