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What is the difference between Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans (Medigap)?

Difference between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement

Understanding the differences between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans is vital when navigating your healthcare coverage.

Medicare, is the Federal government program that provides health care coverage to individuals aged 65 and older and eligible for Medicare, provides additional options to enhance benefits not covered by Original Medicare. Two popular choices offered by the federal Medicare program are Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement plans, also known as Medigap.

This post aims to compare these plans, enabling you to make an informed decision regarding the most suitable plan for your healthcare needs. To offer a comprehensive overview of these options in relation to Original Medicare, we will analyze coverage, prices, and benefits.

Medicare Advantage Plans: An Alternative to Original Medicare

What is a Medicare Advantage Plan?

A Medicare Advantage Plan is an approved health insurance plan offered by private companies that provides coverage similar to Original Medicare. However, it may include extra benefits like vision, hearing, dental, and wellness programs.

How Do These Plans Work?

Medicare Advantage Plans offer a selection of doctors and hospitals within their network, and certain services may require referrals or prior authorizations.

To qualify for a Medicare Advantage Plan, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B, and select a plan during the open enrollment period. These plans assume responsibility for providing and covering your healthcare needs instead of Medicare.

In many instances, Medicare Advantage Plans offer reduced costs and discounts compared to traditional Medicare. However, some plans may impose limitations on the healthcare providers you can use. It is crucial to carefully examine the plan’s provider network when choosing a Medicare Plan.

Types of Medicare Advantage Plans

There are many Medicare Advantage Plans available, each offering distinct benefits and features tailored to cater to diverse healthcare requirements.

  • HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) plans necessitate selecting a primary care physician and often offer lower out-of-pocket expenses for in-network services.
  • PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plans offer more flexibility in choosing healthcare providers but may involve higher costs.
  • Private Fee-for-Service plans permit patients to visit any provider who accepts the plan’s payment rates. Special Needs Plans cater specifically to individuals with chronic or disabling conditions.
  • Lastly, Medicare Medical Savings Account plans enable patients to allocate funds into a tax-free savings account for medical expenses.

Pros and Cons of Medicare Advantage Plans


  • One major benefit is that these plans often feature lower out-of-pocket costs and offer additional benefits not provided by Medicare.
  • Some Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage. 


  • These plans typically have a limited network of healthcare providers, and opting for out-of-network services can lead to increased expenses.
  • Furthermore, there may be additional limitations on receiving specific medical treatments or services with these plans.
  • It is important to note that Advantage plans may not be available in all geographical areas.

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans (Medigap): Enhancing Your Original Medicare Coverage

What is a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plan?

A Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plan is an insurance policy that helps cover healthcare expenses not included in standard Medicare coverage. These policies are sold by private insurance companies and can be used alongside Original Medicare to assist with co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles.

It is important to note that Medigap Insurance policies can only cover costs not already covered by regular Medicare and cannot be used in conjunction with Medicare Advantage plans.

Supplement plans are regulated by federal and state laws, and each policy is guaranteed renewable as long as premiums are paid on time. With such a plan, seniors can ensure they have the financial support they need for any out-of-pocket medical bills.

How Do Supplement Plans Work?

Medicare Supplement plans, or Medigap, offer extra coverage to individuals enrolled in Original Medicare. These plans are offered by private insurance companies and aim to cover healthcare costs that are not included in Medicare, including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. There are ten standardized Medigap policies available, each offering different levels of coverage.

Important Note: The best time to buy a Medigap policy is when you’re turning 65.

Each Medicare Supplement plan is designated by a letter, from A to N, with Plan A providing the least coverage and Plan F offering the most comprehensive benefits. It is essential to remember that these plans do not include prescription drug coverage, so individuals need to enroll in a separate Part D plan to receive prescription drug benefits.

Do You Know: Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage is offered through private companies as a stand-alone plan,

Medicare Supplement plans are renewable, ensuring that once the policy is issued, it cannot be terminated as long as premiums are paid punctually. Premiums for Medigap plans can differ based on age, location, and health condition, so it is crucial for individuals to explore various options to discover the most suitable plan that fits their needs and budget.

Types of Medigap Policies

Medigap policies are created to address the gaps in coverage left by original Medicare, encompassing copayments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

There are ten standardized types of Medigap policies available, each identified by a letter of the alphabet.

  • Medigap Plan A is the least extensive policy, offering only a few essential benefits.
  • On the other hand, Medigap Plan F is the most comprehensive, covering all the benefits provided by Medicare Parts A and B.
  • For comprehensive coverage excluding Medicare Part B, individuals can opt for Medigap Plan G.
  • Other available policies include Medigap Plans C, D, K, L, M, and N, each offering different levels of coverage.

It is crucial to assess your healthcare requirements and financial considerations when selecting the appropriate Medigap policy that suits your situation. This will ensure peace of mind during your retirement years.

Do You Know: Each year the Medicare Part B premium, deductible, and coinsurance rates are determined according to the Social Security Act. 

Pros and Cons of Supplement Plans


  • One significant benefit of these plans is their ability to offer extra coverage and financial security to individuals with significant medical expenses.
  • Furthermore, these policies provide patients with greater flexibility in selecting healthcare providers and also extend access to medical care outside of the United States.


  • Conversely, these plans can be costly, making it unaffordable for some individuals to bear the additional expenses.
  • Furthermore, the abundance of choices available can be overwhelming, making it challenging for individuals to identify the plan that aligns with their requirements and financial capacity.
  • Moreover, certain seniors may face limitations in enrolling for a Medigap plan due to pre-existing medical conditions or missing the enrollment window. In summary,

Important Note: Original Medicare only includes Medicare Part A and Part B.

The Key Differences Between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement Plans: Comparing Medicare Advantage and Medigap

Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans are two widely chosen options among Medicare beneficiaries seeking to enhance their healthcare coverage.

Comparing Costs: Premiums, Deductibles, and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

One significant difference is the expense. When compared to Medicare Supplement plans, Medicare Advantage plans often have lower premiums and may include prescription medication coverage, but they may have greater out-of-pocket payments and deductibles.

Medicare Supplement plans, on the other hand, have higher premiums but provide more comprehensive coverage with little to no out-of-pocket payments.

Provider Networks: Acceptance of Medicare Plans

Another significant distinction is in provider networks. Medicare Advantage plans often have a smaller provider network, but Medicare Supplement plans allow participants to access any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare.

Additional Benefits: What’s Included in Each Plan?

Some Medicare Advantage plans may include supplemental benefits such as vision or dental coverage, gym memberships, or wellness programs, whereas Medicare Supplement plans typically solely cover basic medical expenses. Finally, select the plan that best suits your financial needs, healthcare requirements, and personal preferences.

Making the Right Decision: Medicare Plan or Medigap Plan?

When deciding between Medigap and Medicare Advantage, various things must be addressed in order to make the best selection. Let us go over each point in detail:

Evaluating Your Health Care Needs

Begin by examining your personal health care requirements. Consider your current health situation, prescription medicine needs, and chosen healthcare providers. Medicare Advantage plans often provide complete coverage, including prescription medicines as well as optional benefits such as dental and vision.

Medicare Supplement plans, on the other hand, work alongside Original Medicare and can give you more options for doctors and specialists.

Comparing Plans in Your Area: How to Shop for the Best Options

Visit the official Medicare website or contact a licensed insurance agent to compare the various options in your area. Compare the pricing, coverage, provider network, and additional benefits provided by various Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. Examine the premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance to determine the total cost of each plan.

Can I Have a Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement Plan at the Same Time?

You cannot have both a Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement plan at the same time. These two sorts of plans are complementary to one another.

Medicare Advantage plans are intended to replace Original Medicare, whereas Medicare Supplement plans supplement Original Medicare by providing additional coverage.

Switching Plans: Returning to Original Medicare or Changing Your Coverage

If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to convert to Original Medicare, you can do so during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, which runs each year from January 1 to February 14.

You can also switch between Medicare Advantage plans or from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan from October 15 to December 7. Changes to Medicare Supplement plans can be made at any time during the year, subject to underwriting and availability.

Difference Between a Medicare Advantage Plan & Medicare Supplement Plan: Bottom Line

When it comes to making informed healthcare decisions, knowing the difference between a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement plan is critical.

While both choices provide coverage in addition to Original Medicare, they have distinct features and benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans provide comprehensive coverage through private insurance firms, frequently with additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage; nevertheless, network restrictions may apply.

Medicare Supplement plans, on the other hand, work alongside Original Medicare, filling in the gaps and giving you more options when it comes to healthcare providers.

The ultimate decision to choose Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement depends on individual’s needs and personal preferences. In the end, whatever plan you choose, make sure it aligns with your health and budget.

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