Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans: Medicare Advantage PPO plans offer a network of doctors and hospitals for beneficiaries to choose from. Unlike an HMO, you have the option to receive care from health-care providers outside of the plan’s network, but you’ll pay higher out-of-pocket costs. Medicare Advantage PPOs don’t require you to have a primary care doctor, and you don’t need referrals for specialist care.
Special Needs Plans (SNP): Special Needs Plans are for beneficiaries with certain unique situations and meet certain eligibility criteria. These plans may limit membership to people who have certain chronic conditions, live in an institution (such as a nursing home), or are dual eligibles (receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits). You must meet the eligibility requirements of the Special Needs Plan to enroll; for example, to enroll in a Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plan in your service area, you must have both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plans: These plans combine a high-deductible Medicare Advantage plan with a medical savings account. Every year, your MSA plan deposits money into a savings account that you can use to pay for medical expenses before you’ve reach the deductible. After your reach the deductible, your plan will begin to pay for Medicare-covered services. These plans don’t cover prescription drugs; if you want Medicare Part D coverage, you may enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
You might wonder why a beneficiary would choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. A Medicare Advantage plan is required to cover everything that Original Medicare covers (except for hospice care), including emergency and urgent care. Hospice care is covered by Original Medicare, and hospice benefits continue to be covered by Original Medicare even if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. But, there can be some differences between Original Medicare and a Medicare Advantage plan. Those differences can be in how much you pay out of your own pocket when you receive health care. For example, you might have lower copayments and coinsurance or a smaller deductible.
Enrollment in the public Part C health plan program, including plans called Medicare Advantage since 2005, grew from zero in 1997 (not counting the pre-Part C demonstration projects) to over 21 million in 2018. That 21,000,000-plus represents about 35% of the people on Medicare. But today over half the people fully signing up for Medicare for the first time, are choosing a public Part C plan of some type.
Parts B and D are partially funded by premiums paid by Medicare enrollees and general fund revenue. In 2006, a surtax was added to Part B premium for higher-income seniors to partially fund Part D. In the Affordable Care Act's legislation of 2010, another surtax was then added to Part D premium for higher-income seniors to partially fund the Affordable Care Act and the number of Part B beneficiaries subject to the 2006 surtax was doubled, also partially to fund PPACA.
But the costs per person that had once been too low to attract beneficiaries then became too high to afford long term. So in 2009, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reported that Medicare would spend 14 percent more on Medicare Advantage beneficiaries per person that year than they did per person for "like beneficiaries" under traditional Medicare, theoretically adding an additional 3% ($14 billion) to the cost of the overall Medicare program compared to spending without Part C, This lack of parity and disconnect with the original goal of Part C was primarily caused by so-called Private Fee for Service (PFFS) plans (designed primarily for the rural and urban poor), special needs plans (SNPs), and Employer Group plans (which primarily served retired union members). A special situation relative to Puerto Rico contributed to the imbalance at that time. However the lack of parity also applied to a lesser degree to HMO and PPO plans nationwide.
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company pays royalty fees to AARP for use of its intellectual property. These fees are used for the general purposes of AARP. AARP and its affiliates are not insurers. You do not need to be an AARP member to enroll.
With the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare beneficiaries were formally given the option to receive their Original Medicare benefits through capitated health insurance Part C plans, instead of through the Original fee for service Medicare payment system. Many had previously had that option via a series of demonstration projects that dated back to the early 1980s. These Part C plans were initially known as "Medicare+Choice". As of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, most "Medicare+Choice" plans were re-branded as "Medicare Advantage" (MA) plans (though MA is a government term and might not be visible to the Part C health plan beneficiary). Other plan types, such as 1876 Cost plans, are also available in limited areas of the country. Cost plans are not Medicare Advantage plans and are not capitated. Instead, beneficiaries keep their Original Medicare benefits while their sponsor administers their Part A and Part B benefits. The sponsor of a Part C plan could be an integrated health delivery system, a union, a religious organization, an insurance company or other type of organization.
California's Medicaid program Medi-Cal is a public health insurance program that provides free or low-cost health care coverage to low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, children in foster care, pregnant women, single adults and low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS. Medi-Cal pays for medical visits, hospital care, prescription drugs, pregnancy-related treatment, dental and eye care, and other medical services for individuals who do not have healthcare coverage.
If choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B and then decide to do so later, your coverage may be delayed and you may have to pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a "Special Enrollment Period."