With Medicare Advantage plans, the essential Medicare Part A and Part B benefits – except hospice services – are automatically covered. (If you need hospice services, that’s covered under Original Medicare, even if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.) Advantage plans also cover urgent and emergency care services, and in many cases, the private plans cover vision, hearing, health and wellness programs and dental coverage.
In the 1970s, less than a decade after the beginning of fee for service Medicare, Medicare beneficiaries gained the option to receive their Medicare benefits through managed, capitated health plans, mainly HMOs, as an alternative to FFS Original Medicare, but only under random Medicare demonstration programs. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 formalized the demonstration programs into Medicare Part C, introduced the term Medicare+Choice as a pseudo-brand for this option. Initially, fewer insurers participated than expected, leading to little competition. In a 2003 law, the capitated-fee benchmark/bidding process was changed effective in 2005 to increase insurer participation, but also increasing the costs per person of the program.
Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period: If, after enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, you change your mind, you can switch back to Original Medicare from January 1 through February 14 each year. If you would be losing prescription coverage as a result of the switch, you can also enroll into a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan during this time, if you wish.
When you apply for Medicare, you can sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. However, if you decide to enroll in Part B later on, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. 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.