Days are warm and evenings crisp. Orchards bustle during the pear and apple harvest. It is my favorite time of year, but for seniors it can be stressful because of Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which runs from October 15 through December 7. This is the time of year when most Medicare beneficiaries can choose or change their Medicare coverage.
Better-than-ever health care coupled with healthier lifestyles means people are living longer. With that, living on a fixed income means many seniors worry about having affordable health care for years to come.
One of the most common questions we hear in our Wenatchee office is, “What is the difference between a Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C)?” Learning about each product can help people understand what best fits their lifestyles, pocket books, and health care needs.
Whether choosing a Supplement or Advantage plan, you must continue to pay your part B premium.
Medicare Supplements work much like a secondary insurance. They pick up their share of the covered health care cost after Medicare pays, depending on what plan you purchase. For example, it may pick up 10 percent of the 20 percent coinsurance (meaning you would still pay 10 percent). Supplements will not cover any cost Medicare denies, and some Supplements require medical underwriting to gauge the health of the individual. Premiums, or the cost you pay for the coverage each month, are generally more expensive. Like with Original Medicare, you can see any doctor who accepts Medicare.
Medicare Advantage plans replace Original Medicare, which means hospital and doctor visits are paid directly by the plan. Many Advantage plans also include prescription coverage making for one tidy package. To be clear, you still keep all your Medicare benefits. There is no medical underwriting, and premiums are generally lower. Advantage plans also cover extras that Medicare does not, like dental and fitness programs. They also work closely with provider offices to help coordinate care. This helps many members stay healthier. Advantage plans have contracts with provider offices so a member normally must chose a doctor within the plan’s network.
Health Alliance takes Medicare seriously, and our Wenatchee office and helpful customer service representatives are a resource you can count on to help make a great decision for you during AEP and beyond.
Visit us at 316 S. Fifth St. in Wenatchee from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays. Or call 1-877-561-1463, TTY 711, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. That looks like a toll-free number, but our local representatives are on the other end waiting to help.
Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.