Medicare advantage plans show up to your door like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At first glance, it looks like a frugal way to save a substantial amount of money.
If you don’t take a close, hard look at the plan and examine what you are giving up to save a few dollars today, you could be sorry when you need to file a claim tomorrow.
Below, we’ll discuss why Medicare Advantage plans are bad.
Why Medicare Advantage Plans are Bad
The Hassle of Navigating a Limited Network
Medicare Advantage plans require you to utilize all services from a network of selected doctors, hospitals, and facilities.
Meaning just because a hospital is part of your plan network, it doesn’t mean the doctors are.
You must ask every time you get services if that provider is part of your Medicare Advantage plan network. Each insurance company has several networks.
For instance, my health insurance is through Cigna. But that doesn’t mean that every Cigna doctor is in-network with my particular plan. It’s the same with every private insurance company.
With Original Medicare, the only question necessary is, “do you take Medicare?”. That’s it, you can use that provider and they will bill Medicare directly.
Plus, if you have a Medigap plan you know for certain the doctor accepting your Original Medicare also takes your supplement plan.
Know the Difference Between an HMO and PPO
An HMO is a health maintenance organization. In basic terms, this type of provider offers services for a fixed annual fee.
The insurance company pays the provider a set fee just for agreeing to be in the network. The doctor gets paid even if you don’t seek treatment. There is no incentive for the doctor to see you.
HMO plans do not pay when treatment is received outside the network, except in the case of a true medical emergency.
A PPO is a preferred provider organization. These network providers have agreed to a fee schedule for seeing subscribed members. Doctor’s and facilities have agreed to be paid discounted amounts for participating in the PPO network.
Everything Requires a Referral
With a Medicare Advantage plan, you must see your primary doctor before going to see anyone else.
That means if you are having a gastrointestinal illness, it is necessary that you make an appointment with your primary doctor to get a referral to see a gastroenterologist.
Even a visit to a podiatrist can’t be scheduled until you see your primary doctor to obtain the required referral.
Medicare Advantage plans require a lot of primary doctor co-pays to use your policy to its fullest.
It would be expected that Medicare beneficiaries know when they need to see a specialist, without paying an extra $20 to their primary doctor. All these little copays are in place to deter you from even filing a claim.
Unexpected Plan Changes
When you enroll in a plan, you expect to stay enrolled in that specific plan. However, the insurance company can change or even retire the Medicare Advantage plan in which you are currently enrolled. If your plan is being retired and you don’t act, the insurance company will move you to another plan they offer.
Every year, during the annual enrollment period, the insurance company can retire or change the benefits to the Medicare Advantage plans they offer.
Medicare beneficiaries have been stunned to realize at the new year, their advantage plan benefits have changed. Yes, the insurance company does advise of upcoming changes. But so often, our mailboxes are inundated with junk mail that we may not see that one notice of plan changes.
When it comes to a Medicare Supplement plan, the benefits are set in stone. Those benefits are not going to change. You can depend on the coverage that you’ve come to expect.
To entice Medicare beneficiaries to give up their Original Medicare and enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, the private insurance companies usually provide additional services at no cost.
These ancillary benefits do add value to the Medicare Advantage plan but is the value worth the additional risk you take on each year?
Medicare Advantage plans may offer a benefit for silver sneakers, coverage for fitness classes selected by the insurance company.
Most Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in the YMCA for a discounted price and have access to all the services offered by the YMCA.
Medicare Advantage plans may offer a routine dental visit for x-rays and a cleaning. If you need any work done, you’re on the hook to pay for those services entirely.
Dental plans are available for as little $35 per month and provide coverage for checkups that include x-rays and cleanings, basic and comprehensive services.
The dental services offered through a Medicare advantage plan lull you into a false sense of security thinking you have coverage for dental care when in fact, you will pay for any treatment needed.
Pay Now or Pay Later
Regardless of what type of coverage you select, whether it be a Medicare Advantage plan or Original Medicare and a Medigap plan, there will be a cost share.
As a Medicare beneficiary, you will have a portion of expenses for which you are responsible.
You can limit your risk, or the dollars you owe by continuing your Original Medicare and purchasing a Medigap, or Medicare Supplement plan to fill the holes left.
There are numerous options for Medigap coverage benefits.
Medicare Advantage Plans Out of Pocket Maximum
You need to determine ahead of time how you want to pay your share. With a Medicare Advantage plan, you pay little to nothing in premium and accept a large out of pocket maximum. Some plans have a yearly out of pocket maximum of $5,000. Over a 4-year period that amounts to $20,000.
If you need specialized health care, do you want to be limited as to where you can receive services?
My friend Mike found out his lymphatic cancer had returned for the third time, he was determined he was going to the Moffitt Cancer Center.
Thankfully, he wasn’t limited by an HMO or PPO network. With his Original Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plan G, all Mike paid for his treatment was the yearly deductible.
If you’re currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and would like to compare rates for a Medigap plan, click here. We’ll be happy to compare premiums in your area side by side to make sure you have the best coverage.