Medicare Advantage Plans: An Alternative to Original Medicare

If you aren’t entirely satisfied with Original Medicare coverage (Medicare Part A and Part B), or  want to find out how to get additional benefits that aren’t offered by Original Medicare, there are alternative options you can consider.

One popular option you might consider are Medicare Advantage plans. In fact, more than 19 million Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2017, which is one third of all Medicare beneficiaries.1

If you want to get started finding alternative Medicare plans in your area, you can speak with a licensed insurance agent by calling TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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What is a Medicare Advantage plan?

Medicare Advantage plans (also called Medicare Part C) are sold by private insurance companies – such as Anthem Blue Cross – in many areas throughout the country the country.

There were over 2,300 different Medicare Advantage plans available throughout the country in 2018, although the selection of plans will vary from one location to the next.1

What do Medicare Advantage plans cover?

Medicare Advantage plans are required by law to provide the same hospital insurance and medical insurance coverage as Original Medicare, combined under one plan.

Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits, which can include:

The list of additional benefits that can be offered by Medicare Advantage plans may grow in 2019 to include items such as grab bars and healthy food options and services such as transportation to doctor’s appointments.

Not all of these benefits are offered by every Medicare Advantage plan, and not all plans are available in every location.

How much do Medicare Advantage plans cost?

Because Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies, the cost of plans can vary from one company or state to another.

The average premium paid for a Medicare Advantage plan in 2018 was around $35.55 per month.2 Some Medicare Advantage plans may even feature $0 premiums, though $0 premium plans may not be available in all locations.

Who is eligible for Medicare Part C?

There are only two basic requirements to gain eligibility for most Medicare Advantage plans:

  1. Be enrolled in Part A and B of Medicare
  2. Not have End-Stage Renal Disease (although there are some Special Needs Plans that you may be eligible for if you have ESRD)

When can you enroll?

There are a few different opportunities to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. The first is during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period.

Initial Enrollment Period

If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you can also sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan (or switch from your current Medicare Advantage plan) during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period. This period, also called the Medicare Annual Election Period, happens every year from October 15 through December 7.

Medicare Open Enrollment

You may also be able to sign up for a plan at another time if you happen to qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP). A Medicare SEP can take place at any time throughout the year based on certain criteria.

How do you sign up for Medicare Advantage?

A licensed insurance agent can help you go over the Medicare alternative plan options that are available in your area and detail the costs, coverage and terms of each plan.

Call TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to find a plan that fits your specific needs.

You can compare any Medicare Advantage plans that are available in your area, which could include plans from a number of providers such as:


1 Jacobson, Gretchen; Damico, Anthony; Neuman, Tricia. Medicare Advantage 2018 Data Spotlight: First Look. (Oct. 13, 2017). Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved from

2’s internal analysis of CMS 2018 Medicare Advantage Landscape Source Files. May 2018.