When a person reaches 65 years of age or experiences a qualifying medical event, they can sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare is not a one-size-fits-all health plan. There are several parts to original Medicare, as well as a combined option called Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C.

When a personapproaches the age at which they can sign up for Medicare, they may need to look into which plan will suit them and their needsbest.

Making the right decision on which planand packages to adopt can help a person take stress and expenses out of futuremedical treatment.

Learn more about the plans and costs of Medicare here.

This article will compare the costs andcoverage levels associated with bothMedicareand Medicare Advantage.

a doctor speaking to two people about what is better medicare or medicare advantageShare on Pinterest
The best Medicare plan will depend on a person’s needs.

Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage have dramatically different costs. This is because the plans have different philosophies and support people with varying levels of medical need.

Medicare plans cost more, as they tend to cover more services. As a result, a person may have fewer out-of-pocket costs if they become ill and need more frequent care. A person pays a higher premium to avoid having to pay expenses later.

Medicare Advantage, onthe other hand, has a lower premium but higher out-of-pocket costs. Some planseven require a person to pay only the Medicare Part B premium and $0 forprescription drug coverage.

This plan may be more suitable for a person who does not often use healthcare services. Having to pay more out-of-pocket costs can be a disadvantage if a person requires regular medical supervision or treatment that their plan does not fully cover, such as imaging, transportation, or home care.

However, the cost ofMedicare Advantage plans varies by geographical location.

A person can switch from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan or vice versa once per year. If they find that a plan is not working well for them, they may be able to choose another Medicare option.

When comparing the costsof Medicare and Medicare Advantage, it is best to consider out-of-pocket costsalongside the monthly premium.

The following chart breaks down some of the basic costs in 2021 for these plans.

Plan type Monthly premium
Medicare Part A These plans are free if a person qualifies. Otherwise, it is up to $471 per month.
Medicare Part B These plans cost from $148.50 per month. They may cost more if a person has an income higher than $88,000 per year.
Medicare Part D The cost varies by plan, but the projected 2021 average premium is $42.05, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
Medicare Advantage As with Part D, the cost varies by plan. However, in 2020, the average monthly premium was $25, according to the KFF.

Some people choose a Medicare Advantage plan because they find that they have fewer out-of-pocket costs, according to Medicare.gov.

Medicare supplementplans help a person cover some of the healthcare expenses that traditionalMedicare does not include. Some people also refer to these plans as Medigap.

As with traditional Medicare, the CMS divides Medicare supplement plans by letter. People new to Medicare in 2021 can choose from plans A, B, D, G, K, L, M, and N. Not all insurers offer the same plans in all areas of the country, however.

Plans in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Massachusetts are also different from the traditional Medigap plans.

Medicare supplementplans can help cover several costs, including:

  • copayments for parts A and B
  • up to 3 pints of donated blood
  • coinsurance for skilled nursing facilities
  • yearly out-of-pocket expenses

Peoplewith concerns about steep out-of-pocket expenses may choose a Medigap plan. Asa general rule, a person cannot have a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medigap plan at the same time.

Medicare is a federalhealth insurance program for people aged 65 years and older, as well as peoplewith certain health conditions and disabilities, such as end stage kidneydisease.

When federal governmentemployees designed Medicare, they split it into several separate parts. Theseparts cover different aspects of medical care and include:

  • Part A: Medicare Part A provides hospital coverage, including a hospital stay, hospice care, and necessary care in a skilled nursing facility.
  • Part B: Medicare Part B covers doctors’ visits, outpatient services, medical supplies, and preventive medical care.
  • Part D: Medicare Part D accounts for prescription drug coverage. A person can select a Medicare Part D plan according to the prescriptions they currently take and the copayment with which they are comfortable.

If a person or their spouse paid Medicare taxes for 30 quarters of work, they would receive Medicare Part A at a discounted rate when they reach 65 years of age. If they paid the same tax for 40 quarters, they would get Part A for free. Some exceptions apply to this, and some people may qualify earlier, such as younger people with specific disabilities.

Aperson can also choose to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A if they donot qualify for the free plan.

Medicare Part B is available for a standard cost that only varies for people with a high income. Medicare Part D costs may differ depending on which plan a person selects and how much they earn.

MedicareAdvantage is another name for Medicare Part C. This incorporates parts A, B, and D, alongside some additional services, such as dental,hearing, and vision coverage.

There are around 3,550 available Medicare Advantage plans, according to the KFF, and although the sections below describe the most common types of Medicare Advantage plan, many others are available.

However, it isimportant to note that the availability of Medicare Advantage plans can vary bygeographical area. For example, there are no Medicare Advantage plans inAlaska.

According to the KFF, in 2021, Florida, and California, will have up to 41 additional plans available, compared with 2020. Other areas of the country may see decreases in plan availability.

Medicare Advantageplans usually fall into different categories, including:

Health maintenance organization

Aperson typically chooses from a list of preferred providers that they must visit for the plan to cover healthcare costs.

Most health maintenance organization (HMO) plans require a primary care doctor to coordinate a person’s care. This means that they must usually refer a person to a specialist before the insurance covers the healthcare costs.

In 2021, an estimated 62% of people with Medicare Advantage plans have an HMO plan, according to the KFF.

Preferred provider organization

Apreferred provider organization (PPO) plan covers some or all costs from a set networkof healthcare providers.

A person does not usually require a doctor’s referral to see a specialist under these plans, and they typically have a more extensive network of providers to choose from than with an HMO plan. However, PPO plans are usually more expensive than HMO plans.

Private fee-for-service

Thisplan allows a person to seek care at a provider and pay a fixed amount, uponwhich the insurance company has already agreed.

Unlike HMOs and PPOs, a person does not have to receive referrals or select a primary care doctor. However, bear in mind that not all doctors who accept Medicare will also accept a private fee-for-service plan.

Special needs plans

A special needs plan is a Medicare plan that supports people with a chronic health condition and other specific needs. Examples of these conditions may include diabetes, end stage renal disease, HIV, and chronic heart failure.

Because people with these conditions often have complex health needs, these plans can account for considerations such as medications and other necessary services.

Around 24 million of all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, according to the KFF.

People should always weigh up the costs and coverage levels when selecting a plan that best suits their needs. Neither Medicare nor Medicare Advantage is better, but one may be more suitable than the other for people in specific financial or medical circumstances.