Out-of-pocket costs in healthcare can quickly add up, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. When evaluating Medicare Advantage Plans, it’s essential to understand what out-of-pocket expenses you may face and how they compare to Original Medicare. This comprehensive guide examines the various Medicare Advantage costs to be aware of and provides money-saving strategies to limit your overall expenses.
Medicare Advantage Cost Sharing Overview
Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private insurers and bundle Medicare Part A, Part B, and usually Part D drug plan benefits in one plan. While they cover the same services as Original Medicare, plans have flexibility in setting different cost-sharing amounts for enrollees. Common out-of-pocket costs can include:
- Monthly premiums – Plans may charge premiums from $0 up to over $150 per month depending on enhanced benefits offered. You also must continue paying your Part B premium.
- Deductibles – Some plans charge an annual deductible, usually $0 to no more than $250, before coverage begins. Many plans don’t have a deductible.
- Copayments – A flat fee you pay for services, such as a $15 doctor visit copay or $100 per day hospital copay. Copays are predictable costs.
- Coinsurance – A percentage of the total cost of care. For example, you may pay 20% as coinsurance for durable medical equipment.
- Out-of-pocket maximum – Plans limit your total yearly costs for medical services. Once you hit this amount, the plan covers 100% of approved services. Maximums are $8,300 or less.
While cost sharing varies, Medicare Advantage offers financial protections not available in Original Medicare. Let’s look closer at the different costs that may apply.
Medicare Advantage Premiums
One monthly expense to plan for is your Medicare Advantage Plan’s premium. Here are some key facts:
- Premiums vary significantly by plan. Many plans charge $0 premiums while others range from $20 up to over $150 per month.
- You must continue paying your Part B premium in addition to any plan premium. Most beneficiaries pay $164.90 per month for Part B coverage in 2023.
- Some plans will help cover part of your Part B premium, reducing your costs by that amount.
- Premiums tend to be higher for plans offering extra benefits like dental, vision, hearing, and fitness memberships.
- Regional PPO plans that allow using out-of-network providers typically have the highest premiums.
When evaluating plan options, be sure to consider the monthly premium along with covered benefits. In some cases, paying a higher premium for enhanced benefits can provide better overall value.
The next cost to look at is whether a Medicare Advantage Plan charges an annual deductible. Key points about deductibles include:
- Many Medicare Advantage Plans do not have a deductible for Part A and Part B services, unlike Original Medicare.
- Plans that do charge a deductible often have relatively low amounts of $100 – $250 per year.
- The maximum deductible allowed for in-network care is $950 in 2023. Most plans set far lower deductibles.
- Original Medicare has deductibles of $1,600 per benefit period for Part of Medicare A and $226 in 2023 for Part B coverage.
- Plans may have separate deductibles for prescription drug coverage.
Paying attention to deductible amounts when comparing plans can help you estimate and prepare for initial out-of-pocket costs each year before coverage kicks in. $0 deductible plans simplify expenses.
One way Medicare Advantage Plans differ significantly from Original Medicare is using copayments instead of 20% coinsurance for many services. Here’s how copays work:
- A copay is a flat dollar amount you pay for a medical service, such as a $10 copay for a primary care visit.
- Copays provide cost predictability since you know exactly what you’ll owe at the time of care.
- Typical copays range from $0 for certain preventive services up to $350 per day for hospital stays.
- Plans have some flexibility in setting copay amounts, so comparing options can identify lower cost sharing.
- Copays apply until you reach your annual out-of-pocket spending maximum.
Copayments converting uncertain coinsurance to fixed dollar amounts is a major benefit of Medicare Advantage for budgeting.
While less common than copays, some Medicare Advantage Plans do still use coinsurance for certain services. Here are key facts about coinsurance:
- Coinsurance means paying a percentage of the total cost of care rather than a fixed dollar copay.
- Typical coinsurance is 10%-20% for services like diagnostic tests, durable medical equipment, and outpatient procedures.
- Medicare Advantage Plans can’t charge higher coinsurance than Original Medicare for hospital stays, mental health care, and dialysis.
- Coinsurance costs add up quickly for extensive treatment. Copays have more cost predictability.
- You pay coinsurance until reaching your annual out-of-pocket spending limit.
If you utilize services that require coinsurance, you’ll want to estimate potential costs when selecting a plan so you understand your financial exposure.
A major benefit of Medicare Advantage is that plans have a yearly cap that limits what you’ll pay out-of-pocket for Part A and Part B medical services. Key facts include:
- The maximum out-of-pocket limit set by Medicare is $8,300 for in-network care in 2023.
- Many plans have lower limits of around $5,000 – $6,500 per year.
- Once you hit your plan’s limit, you won’t have any more copays or coinsurance. The plan pays 100% for the remainder of the year.
- Original Medicare does not have an out-of-pocket cap, so your coinsurance costs could really add up if you need extensive care.
- Prescription drug costs also count towards your total out-of-pocket limit.
Out-of-pocket maximums create financial protection and peace of mind. This is a major advantage of Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare coverage unlimited costs.
Strategies to Reduce Medicare Advantage Plan Costs
While Medicare Advantage offers cost protections, you’ll want to take steps to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses:
Pick the right plan – Compare several plans’ premiums, copays, coinsurance, drug coverage, and maximum limits. Crunching the numbers will help identify lower cost options.
Use in-network providers – Paying more for out-of-network care won’t count towards your annual limit. Staying in-network avoids these extra costs.
Use preferred pharmacies – Many plans have preferred and standard pharmacy tiers with lower copays at preferred pharmacies.
Take preventive care – Medicare Advantage covers preventive services like cancer screenings and flu shots with no out-of-pocket costs. Staying healthy can help avoid future expenses.
Evaluate drug tiers – If faced with high specialty drug costs, ask your plan about lower-tier exceptions to reduce copays.
Qualify for Extra Help – People with limited incomes and resources may qualify for assistance programs that help cover Medicare Advantage costs.
Consider Medigap Plans – If you switch to Original Medicare, purchasing a Medigap Plan can help cover coinsurance amounts.
Medicare Advantage vs. Original Medicare Costs
How do out-of-pocket costs with Medicare Advantage stack up against Original Medicare? Here’s an overview:
- Medicare Advantage yearly out-of-pocket spending limits protect against unexpected costs. Original Medicare has no cap on your coinsurance responsibility.
- Medicare Advantage Plans offer extra benefits like dental and vision not covered by Original Medicare at all. Using these perks can reduce other out-of-pocket costs.
- Medicare Advantage may offer $0 premium plans in some areas. But you must continue paying the Original Medicare Part B premium.
- Medicare Advantage uses copays and coinsurance that allow you to plan for expected costs. Original Medicare coinsurance is less predictable.
- Medicare Advantage Plans coordinate all benefits in one plan. With Original Medicare you need multiple plans to supplement gaps.
While both programs have pros and cons, Medicare Advantage can provide strong financial protection for many enrollees if you choose the right plan for your needs.
Traps to Avoid With Medicare Advantage Costs
While Medicare Advantage Plans offer cost-sharing advantages in many ways, it’s also important to be aware of some common traps to avoid:
- Don’t assume $0 premium plans have the lowest overall costs. Higher premium plans may have lower copays or maximums that reduce your expenses more.
- Watch out for plans with very high specialty tier drug copays or coinsurance of 25% or more for services. These can really increase out-of-pocket spending.
- Don’t enroll without checking carefully that your doctors, hospitals and medications are covered and affordable. Out-of-network care won’t count towards your maximum costs.
- Be wary of plans touting $0 deductibles that instead have high copays for many services. The combinational cost sharing is what matters most.
- Avoid plans with very limited maximum out-of-pocket limits but high premiums. Lower premium plans with good cost sharing may provide better value.
Looking beyond just premium prices to closely compare total costs prevents unpleasant surprises. Getting locked into a plan that ultimately ends up costing you more out-of-pocket defeats the purpose of Medicare Advantage benefits.
Projecting Your Medicare Advantage Costs
The best way to choose a Medicare Advantage Plan with affordable cost sharing is to actually map out your estimated expenses under different plans. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- Make a list of your doctors and preferred hospitals and which Medicare Advantage networks they participate in.
- Note the prescription medications you take and their tier placement under each plan’s formulary.
- Identify any frequent medical services you utilize, like physical therapy. Having an idea of your care needs is essential.
- Compare premiums, deductibles, copays/coinsurance for each service, and out-of-pocket maximums across several Medicare Advantage Plan options in your area.
- Calculate your estimated total yearly costs under each plan based on your expected care utilization.
- Factor in extra benefits like dental coverage that you may use and any plan contributions toward Part B premium reductions.
- Select the Medicare Advantage Plan that provides you with the most affordable overall projected costs and coverage for your situation.
Doing this exercise annually helps ensure you pick the optimal plan during open enrollment based on changes to your health needs and each insurer’s cost sharing.
Medicare Advantage Plans provide extensive benefits but can come with premiums, copays, deductibles and coinsurance that affect your total out-of-pocket costs. Understanding the expenses you may face and calculating projected spending under different plans allows choosing an option with truly affordable cost sharing. Limiting your healthcare costs is key to making Medicare work on a fixed income.
We’re Here to Help
You do not have to spend hours reading articles on the internet to get answers to your Medicare questions. Give the licensed insurance agents at Glidden Group a Call at (208) 962-0077. You will get the answers you seek in a matter of minutes, with no pressure and no sales pitch. We are truly here to help.
Do Medicare Advantage Plans have out-of-pocket expenses?
Yes, Medicare Advantage Plans do have out-of-pocket expenses. These expenses include deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for covered services.
What is Medicare Part C?
Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is a type of Medicare health plan offered by private insurance companies that provides all the benefits of Medicare Part A and Part B, and often includes additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage.
What are out-of-pocket costs?
Out-of-pocket costs are the expenses that you are responsible for paying yourself, such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, when receiving medical services.
What is the maximum out-of-pocket for Medicare Advantage Plans in 2024?
The maximum out-of-pocket limit for Medicare Advantage Plans in 2024 is $7,550 for in-network services. This means that once you have reached this amount in out-of-pocket expenses, the plan will cover 100% of the remaining costs for covered services for the rest of the year.
Does Medicare cover out-of-pocket expenses?
Medicare does not have a specific out-of-pocket maximum. However, Medicare Part A and Part B do have deductibles and coinsurance amounts that you are responsible for paying. Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans can help cover some of these out-of-pocket costs.
Can Medicare Advantage Plans have out-of-pocket maximum?
Yes, Medicare Advantage Plans can have an out-of-pocket maximum. This is the maximum amount you would have to pay in out-of-pocket expenses in a calendar year for covered services.
What do Medicare Parts A and B cover?
A Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health care. Medicare Part B covers doctor’s visits, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.
What is the Medicare deductible in 2023?
The Medicare Part B deductible for 2023 is $233 per year. This is the amount you need to pay out-of-pocket before Medicare starts covering its share of your medical costs for the year.
What is a Medicare Advantage Plan?
A Medicare Advantage Plan is a private health insurance plan that provides the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B, and often includes additional benefits such as prescription drug coverage, dental, vision, and hearing services.
What are the out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare Advantage Plans?
The out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare Advantage Plans vary by plan. They may include deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance for covered services. It’s important to review the specific details of each plan you are considering.