We’ve previously covered Medicare Parts A and B, also called Original Medicare, but what is Medicare Part C, and why is it usually not included with the other three? Medicare Part C, commonly called Medicare Advantage, is a comprehensive alternative to Original Medicare offered by private insurance companies.

Medicare Advantage has become a popular choice among Medicare insurance beneficiaries in recent years. In 2022, 48 percent of those covered by Medicare insurance were Medicare Advantage members. Through the comprehensive offerings and extra benefits that are often included with the plans, it’s understandable why many beneficiaries choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans.

What Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover?

What sets Medicare Advantage apart is the additional benefits.

As an alternative to Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans must cover all Part A and B services. This means the plan aids in paying for hospital stays and most medical services. What sets Medicare Advantage apart is the additional benefits. Some Medicare Advantage plans also include qualified prescription drug coverage, so you don’t need to purchase a stand-alone Part D drug plan. These plans are marketed as Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug, or MAPD, plans.

What Do Medicare Part C Plans Cost?

Since you’re still enrolled in Medicare, you will still pay any required monthly premiums for Parts A and B. Beyond this, a Medicare Advantage plan’s cost depends on several factors. These factors can be:

  • Monthly premiums included in the plan
  • Yearly deductibles
  • Copayments or coinsurances included in the plan

A brief outline of Medicare Advantage plan costs is available on Medicare.gov.

What Do I Need to Do to Get a Medicare Advantage Plan?

To join a Medicare Advantage plan, you must tick a few boxes. First, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare. You must also live within that plan’s service area. Beyond that, it’s pretty easy to enroll in a Medicare Part C plan.

Is There Anything Else We Should Know About Part C?

Each year, you have two opportunities to make changes to your Medicare Advantage plan. The primary season is the Annual Enrollment Period, which runs from October 15 to December 7. During this period, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another

The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs from January 1 to March 31, allowing plan holders to make a one-time switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare.

The second time to make a change in your coverage is during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This window runs from January 1 to March 31 and allows Medicare Advantage plan holders to make a one-time switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare. If you return to Original Medicare, you can purchase a Medicare Supplement and stand-alone prescription drug plan.

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If the coverage provided by a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan interests you, check out the Shop & Enroll Plan Finder.

Further Reading

Medicare.gov — 13 things to know about Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare.gov — Medicare Advantage Plans