Original Medicare plans, which are offered by the federal government, don't cover everything. On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans offered by private health insurance companies are designed to be all-in-one packages. In addition to what's provided by Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans include different value-added benefits like vision and dental coverage.
"Do your research because Medicare Advantage plans vary from carrier to carrier," says Don Truong, director of sales at Sharp Health Plan. "If you choose one with the right benefits for your needs, it could save you money in the long run."
Here are five Medicare Advantage benefits that you may not have heard of before.
- Free preventive care
Most Medicare Advantage plans offer different $0 preventive care benefits. Some plans may also include wellness programs to encourage members to improve their physical and mental health. Wellness programs might include discounted or free gym memberships, or help with nutrition or diet planning.
- Vision care
Original Medicare does not generally cover annual eye exams, but most Medicare Advantage plans do. It's important to choose a Medicare Advantage plan that takes vision care into consideration, especially if you already wear glasses or contacts. Most Medicare Advantage plans offer annual eye exams at a fixed rate and give an allowance for glasses or contacts.
- Dental coverage
Some Medicare Advantage plans may include dental coverage, or allow you to pay more a month for dental benefits. Dental plans will generally cover routine dental care like oral exams, cleanings, X-rays and diagnostic services. Some plans may also cover root canal treatment, extractions and prosthodontics with a copayment or coinsurance. Each plan varies so it's important to choose one with the dental coverage you might need.
- Prescription coverage
Many Medicare Advantage plans cover prescription drugs as an added benefit. This eliminates the need for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in a separate Part D plan to receive prescription coverage. Although each Medicare Advantage plan offers different prescription drug coverage, enrolling in a Medicare Advantage Plan may end up costing you less on prescription drugs.
- Over-the-counter allowances
Most Medicare Advantage plans offer over-the-counter (OTC) benefits, often in the form of monthly allowances. These allowances can be used to purchase certain items like cold medicine, bandages and vitamins. OTC benefits can help cover the cost of necessary health care items not covered as a medical or pharmaceutical expense.
Still have questions about Medicare?
Sharp hosts free online seminars, where you'll learn more about enrollment periods and how Medicare works. Sign up for the "Understanding How Medicare Works" seminar or the "Understanding Your Medicare Open Enrollment Options" seminar.
These classes are also available in Spanish. Please visit Entienda Cómo Funciona Medicare and Entienda Sus Opciones de Medicare Durante la Inscripción Abierta for more information.
For local, in-person assistance, Sharp Health Plan hosts free enrollment labs where you can learn about health insurance options and, if you feel ready, get help with enrollment. Walk-ins are welcome, so you can stop by when it's convenient for you. Visit sharphealthplan.com/labs for dates and registration.
This story was updated February 4, 2021, to reflect the most up-to-date Medicare information.