Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called Medicare Part C or MAPD, are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. You must continue to pay any required premiums for Original Medicare. You may also be required to pay an additional premium depending on the Medicare Advantage Plan you choose. Most of these plans will include your prescription drug coverage, along with help for vision, dental, and hearing aids in addition to providing an annual limit to your out of pocket medical expenses.
Medicare Advantage plan participants are still on Medicare and retain the rights and protections of Medicare, however, all services are handled through the insurance company and the network of doctors and hospitals they contract to provide those services. Advantage plans provide services within geographically defined areas. Extensive traveling outside of your service area could make it difficult to get routine services, but emergency care would still be available.
You must enroll in Medicare Part C or D during your Initial Election Period (IEP). Your IEP extends three months in advance and three months after the month of your 65th birthday or Medicare effective date. If you miss this enrollment window you will have to wait for the Annual Election Period (AEP) which takes place from October 15th through December 7th each year. Part C & Part D plans lock in for the calendar year. There are also special circumstances which may entitle you to a special election period (SEP) such as moving to a new city or State where your options are different or becoming eligible for low income assistance.
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