Medicare Advantage plans offer many benefits that people who are enrolled into Original Medicare with a medigap plan do not have access to.
The reason why Medicare Advantage plans can offer benefits above and beyond original medicare at no extra cost is that they have an approved contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to offer private insurance. These plans are required to be “as good or better” than what CMS offers with Original Medicare.
The competition is HIGH in today’s Medicare Advantage marketplace. We are seeing increased purchasing of TV commercials and other advertisement slots on radio, social media, and print just so the insurance companies can canvas the senior population with hopes of catching their eye.
The specific benefits in each plan may vary, however, in most Medicare Advantage plans you can expect to see a few of these benefits:
Your plan may give you access to a selection of local gyms. These gym networks differ depending on the insurance company you enroll with. Silver Sneakers and Renew Active are two of the largest networks.
Each gym has varying amenities from basic free weights to some of the higher-end facilities offering wet & dry saunas, personal trainers, and pools.
Besides access to the gym, these gym benefits include exclusive access to brain games and healthy recipes to help you maintain a sharp mind and healthy diet.
Eye Exam & Vision Coverage
Your plan may give you access to an annual eye exam and possibly coverage for glasses or contact lenses. Depending on the plan, you can usually get a new pair of glasses every one or two years.
Regardless of whether your plan covers extra vision benefits such as those listed above, individuals who undergo cataract surgery can get a free pair of glasses paid for by Medicare following surgery.
It is common for Medicare Advantage plans to cover preventative dental exams every six months and some cover basic and major services such as tooth extractions, oral surgery, or even dentures.
There are specific plans for a sub-set of population that qualify for Medicare AND Medicaid. Qualification for these plans is based on income. These plans are referred to as being Dual Advantage, referencing the dual eligibility for both medicare and Medicaid. These dual plans will commonly cover a substantial amount more than other Advantage plans.
Personal Emergency Response System
Have you seen the commercials where the old lady tumbles down a flight of stairs and then shouts “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” While that commercial is promoting a product called Life Alert, a similar life-saving device may be available by a Medicare Advantage plan in your area.
Many of these fall protection systems are linked to cellular service, allowing you to remain protected beyond the perimeter of your home. If you find yourself alone, all you need to do is press the button on your lanyard to activate the monitored service.
This is also great if you are reading this and immediately think of a friend, neighbor, or parent who lives alone and is at risk of experiencing a debilitating fall. Many advantage plans will include this Personal Emergency Response System for no cost.
Over-the-Counter Product Catalog
Need band-aids, vitamins, throat lozenges, or other over-the-counter items to fill your medicine cabinet? Look for a Medicare Advantage plan that provides an OTC or Over-the-Counter credit. Some plans provide a monthly or quarterly allowance to purchase these types of items. The catalogs generally consist of products you’d find at your local pharmacy but range from vitamins to compression socks to walkers and other aides.
The last thing you want to find yourself doing after a hospital stay is cooking a meal. Some Medicare Advantage plans provide a monthly credit to purchase groceries or at a minimum, these meal-enabled plans will allow you to have meals delivered after a stay in the hospital.
For some people, finding a reliable ride to a doctor’s visit can be difficult. That is why many Advantage plans contract with ride-sharing services or logistic/transportation companies to provide their members with a set number of visits to approved locations. Approved locations can generally mean non-emergency transportation to hospitals, doctors, and other medical services.
If your plan provides transportation, it may be allocated as “one-way trips”, in case you can get a family member or friend to drop you off, you can still have the health plan’s transportation service pick you up and deliver you back home.
In conclusion, it is possible that the plan you are enrolled in may not include all of the benefits that are available to you. Contact an agent today to discover if you’re maximizing your Medicare benefits. In many cases, there may be a Special Election Period available to switch plans mid-year. If there is not one available, you may need to wait until the Annual Election Period or Open Election Period.