medicare advantageEvery November, people who have been enrolled in Medicare for years get a choice.  They can switch to a plan from a private health insurance company that provides their Part A and B benefits.  This type of a plan is called a Medicare Advantage plan, and millions have already made the change.
Medicare Advantage Plans Take a Bite out of Medicare
Enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans continues to grow as one in five switches from original Medicare to an Advantage plan.  By 2011, Advantage plan enrollment had grown to 12.1 million.  This surge is due, in part, to virtually all beneficiaries having one or more of these plans available where they reside.
And, 88 percent of Medicare beneficiaries also have access to an Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage.  Original Medicare very rarely covers prescriptions, but most Advantage plans do.  They also routinely help with dental care, eyeglasses and hearing aids that original Medicare doesn’t cover.
Beneficiaries usually have a choice of around 12 different Advantage plans.  A couple dozen plans are available in some metro areas. Since Advantage plans are not standardized like Medigap plans, you have to evaluate the benefits offered by each plan separately to see if it is a good fit for your needs.
Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans Are the Only Alternative
The Medicare annual enrollment going on in November also allows people to sign up for a Part D Prescription Drug plan.  While Advantage plans basically replace original Medicare, Part D plans work with it.  Unlike Advantage plans, Part D plans only provide prescription coverage. Advantage plans are known for helping with dental care, eyeglasses,p0- and hearing aids.
Part D plans are offered by private insurance companies just like Advantage plans are.  Beneficiaries often have a choice of two or three dozen Part D plans operating in their area.  As with Advantage plans, Part D plans cover most medication, but not every possible prescription.  Check whether your medication is covered before applying.
Many people are finding invaluable help with prescriptions and other kinds of health care during the annual enrollment period, but it only lasts until December 7.  With so many options available in most places, it pays to start looking as soon as possible, and get professional advice and resources to help you narrow your choices to save time, money and frustration.'

Jim McFadden has over 11 years of executive-level experience in the health insurance industry, is a youth baseball, softball and football coach, and has one of the worst fantasy football records in the world.