Taking Advantage of Medicare Part C plan

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

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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