The A, B, C, and D of Medicare's Annual Election Period

At the center of almost every Medicare option you might consider during this year’s Annual Election Period, from October 15 through December 7, is Medicare’s Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D benefits.  Part A, or hospital insurance, and Part B, or medical insurance, are at the heart of most Medicare health care coverage options you may choose from. Part C, or Medicare Advantage, offers you choices with some benefits  in addition to what Original Medicare covers, and Part D is prescription drug coverage offered by stand-alone Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) or Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage included (MA-PDs).  Reviewing the basics will help you get started as you consider making a change to your current health care coverage.

When you first became eligible for Medicare, it is likely that you were automatically enrolled in Part A and signed up for Part B so that you could receive the medical insurance you need. You pay a monthly premium for Part B.  If you get your Part A and Part B benefits from Original Medicare, you may have purchased a Medigap policy to help supplement your health care coverage. You may also have added a Part D, or Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), which helps cover the costs of your prescription drugs.

Instead, you may have chosen to receive your Part A and Part B benefits through a Part C plan, otherwise known as a Medicare Advantage Plan. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by a private insurance company contracting with Medicare, and must offer at least what Original Medicare does. Many offer additional benefits. These benefits can vary greatly from plan to plan, and could include vision, dental, and hearing care, or even fitness club memberships. You may have decided that an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) fits your lifestyle, and you might have chosen an MA-PD plan (Medicare Advantage with prescription drug coverage).

Regardless of how you have been receiving your Medicare benefits, you have the annual opportunity to make changes to your health care coverage during the Annual Election Period, often referred to as Open Enrollment, from October 15 through December 7.  This period of time allows you to compare other plans available in your area. You can compare the costs (including premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and other out of pocket costs) of individual plans and the benefits they offer so that you can ultimately choose the one that best meets your individual needs.

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