Taking Advantage of Medicare Part C plan

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Perhaps the single biggest point of confusion among Medicare beneficiaries centers on Medicare Advantage, sometimes known as Medicare Part C.

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Advantage plans are operated by private companies that contract with Medicare. The plans, which supplant Medicare Parts A and B, cover more comprehensive medical services and typically have lower deductibles and lower co-payments than original Medicare. You still have to pay the monthly Medicare Part B premium ($99.90 for most recipients) in addition to the Advantage plan's premium. If you buy an Advantage plan, you can always go back to original Medicare, but only during the Jan. 1- Feb. 14 "disenrollment" period.

Don't confuse Advantage plans with Medigap, which is used in conjunction with original Medicare. It typically helps cover costs of deductibles, co-pays and other expenses, but it also has its own monthly premium. The open enrollment period to choose a Medicare Advantage plan ends Dec. 7. For help, call Medicare at 800-633-4227.

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