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You may be eligible for a government subsidy if your household income is under:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers subsidies based on your household income, family size, and Qualifying Life Events.

You may qualify if...
One of the life events below has happened to you in the past 60 days:
  • I got married or divorced
  • I had a baby
  • A member of my family died
  • I moved to another state
  • i lost my job
  • I started a new job
  • I lost my health insurance coverage
and
Your income is under:
  • $45,960 - Individuals
  • $62,040 - Family of 2
  • $78,120 - Family of 3
  • $94,200 - Family of 4

Choosing a Medicare Advantage plan for 2020

Medicare Advantage are plans offered by private insurers. You can choose a Medicare Advantage plan during the annual open enrollment period or when you're first offered Medicare when you turn 65. 

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you'll also receive your annual notice of change (ANOC) from your plan. Medicare Advantage plans are required to tell you of any changes for the upcoming year before the Medicare open enrollment period that runs each year from Oct. 15-Dec. 7. If you don't make changes during that time, you won't be able to switch until the next open enrollment period unless you face a qualifying life event. A qualifying life event includes a spouse's death, retirement or change of job. 

Don't ignore open enrollment, advises Pamala McIntire, a benefits consultant for Reames Employee Benefits Solutions in Daytona Beach, Fla. The notice will tell you of any changes in the plan's costs, benefits, coverages or service areas and rules for the upcoming year.

Here's what you can do during open enrollment:

  • Switch from Original Medicare (also called Parts A and B) to Medicare Advantage (Part C)

  • Change from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare

  • Swap Medicare Advantage plans

  • Get a Medicare prescription drug plan (called Part D) if you have Original Medicare

  • Change or cancel Part D plans

Changes made during open enrollment kick in on Jan. 1, 2020. 

Medicare Advantage 2015If you are OK with the changes, you don't have to do anything. But if you're dissatisfied or want to change to a different Medicare Advantage plan, open enrollment is the time.

Medicare plans vary on who handles your claims. With Original Medicare, the government pays your healthcare providers for your Part A and/or Part B benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans are a type of Medicare offered by private companies. The companies contract with Medicare to provide you insurance. Most Medicare Advantage plans are health maintenance organizations or preferred provider organizations.

However, some Medicare Advantage plans are private fee-for-service plans.

The vast majority of Americans have access to nearly 40 Medicare Advantage plans. This means you can often find a plan that best suits your situation. 

  • CMS estimates that there will be about 1,200 more Medicare Advantage plans in 2020 than in 2018. 

Medicare Advantage plans have lower premiums

Medicare Advantage premiums are much cheaper than Original Medicare. For 2020, Original Medicare's premium is $144.30. That's compared to an average monthly premium of $23 for Medicare Advantage. 

However, Medicare Advantage has higher deductibles. Original Medicare's premium is slightly less than $200. Private insurers can offer plans with higher deductibles. In fact, private plans can provide high-deductible health plans. 

Make sure to look at deductibles and out-of-pocket costs when you're comparing plans. The cost of the plans can vary depending on where you live. 

Costs for 2020 Medicare Advantage plans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) forecasts that average premiums for 2020 Medicare Advantage plans will decrease by 14% compared to 2019.

The trade-off to a low premium is that you might have higher deductibles and co-insurance when you need healthcare. Also, you will pay more or may not have any coverage if you use doctors and hospitals that aren't part of your Advantage plan's network.

Medicare Advantage plans give more supplemental benefits than Original Medicare. There are 500 plans that offer expanded “primarily health-related supplemental benefits.” That includes adult care services or caregiver support services.

There are also Medicare Advantage plans that focus on particular health issues like diabetes and congestive heart failure. About 300 plans will offer those extra benefits in 2020 that insurers made for people with those specific illnesses. 

Not all Medicare Advantage plans will have these supplemental benefits, so check to make sure to ask the plan about supplemental benefits before enrolling. In the coming years, more Medicare Advantage plans will have these kinds of add-ons. 

Drug coverage likely included in a Medicare Advantage plan

Most, but not all, Medicare Advantage plans provide prescription drug coverage.

If you have Original Medicare, you can buy a Part D drug coverage plan separately. However, you can't buy a Part D plan if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead, look for a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage. 

Separate Part D plans average $30 a month. That's the lowest Part D premium since 2013. You can expect to pay more for a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage. 

What to look for when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan

Here's what to do when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan:

Look at what doctors and hospitals are in the plan's network. Provider networks can change each year and even mid-year. If you visit particular doctors or hospitals, make sure they're part of the plan you choose.

Not all providers accept Medicare Advantage. Your long-time doctor may accept Original Medicare, but that doesn't mean the physician accepts a specific Medicare Advantage plan. It's best to check with your physician's office before signing up with a plan just to make sure. 

Look at drugs and your usage when selecting plan. If you're taking prescription drugs, examine the plan's list of covered medications carefully.

It may be worth your time to set up a spreadsheet with your medications and the costs under your different Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare options.

Consider the plan's maximum out-of-pocket costs. You may want a plan that has a low out-of-pocket maximum. If you're healthy and don't plan to use much health care, you might want to risk a higher out-of-pocket maximum.

Ways to buy a Medicare Advantage plan

Use Medicare's Plan Finder.

Visit the plan's website to see if you can sign up online.

Enroll by filling out paperwork. Contact the plan to get an enrollment form. All Medicare Advantage plans must offer this option.

Call the plan directly: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can't buy Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans on state health insurance exchanges. The exchanges sell only individual and family health insurance.

A good resource for choosing the best Medicare Advantage Plan is the Medicare Plan Finder.

After you determine the Medicare Advantage plans in your area, go to the plan's website to double check what suits your needs.

You also can call the plan and talk to a plan representative. If you speak with a representative to confirm that the plan you want covers all your drugs and that the doctors, hospitals and pharmacies you want to use are in its network, take notes. Keep a record of whom you spoke with and what was said.

Additional reporting by Beth Orenstein

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Find Affordable Health Insurance Now!

Please enter valid Zip Code.
Please enter valid date.
You may be eligible for a government subsidy if your household income is under:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers subsidies based on your household income, family size, and Qualifying Life Events.

You may qualify if...
One of the life events below has happened to you in the past 60 days:
  • I got married or divorced
  • I had a baby
  • A member of my family died
  • I moved to another state
  • i lost my job
  • I started a new job
  • I lost my health insurance coverage
and
Your income is under:
  • $45,960 - Individuals
  • $62,040 - Family of 2
  • $78,120 - Family of 3
  • $94,200 - Family of 4
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