Once your parents reach the age of 65, they’ll likely qualify for Medicare. A lot of seniors are unaware of the benefits and costs of Medicare, as well as the differences between the four main parts of Medicare. If you’re considering Medicare to help your parents cover their medical expenses during retirement, here’s what you should know about Medicare Advantage plans so you can decide if getting one is the right choice for them.

Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage

All Medicare plans weren’t created equally. There are four parts of Medicare, Parts A-D. The first two parts (A&B) are called Original Medicare. Part C, better known as as Medicare Advantage, is Original Medicare bundled with Part D (prescription drug coverage) and includes other benefits such as dental and vision.

Part A: This plan covers hospital stays, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and some in-home care. You won’t have to pay the premiums for Part A if you (or your spouse) paid taxes into Medicare while you were working.

Part B: This plan covers doctor’s visits, outpatient services, preventative care, tests and X-rays, and medical supplies. Part B can be automatically deducted from your Social Security check every month and typically amounts to a little over $100 per month.

Part C: This is an alternative to Original Medicare and covers some of the same benefits. You’ll get a few additional services that you’ll see discussed in the next section.

Part D: This plan covers prescription medications.

Benefits of Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage plans can be beneficial for seniors who’ve paid into Medicare during their working years. Some of the benefits include potentially lower premiums for coverage and dental, hearing, and vision care. With Medicare, there are limits on how much your parents have to pay out-of-pocket, which means more money for them to spend on other necessities. However, Medicare Advantage plans might limit their choices when it comes to medical providers unless they have a PPO or HMO through a private insurance company. All Medicare Advantage plans are offered from private, Medicare-approved insurance companies.

Getting a Medicare Advantage Plan Through a Private Insurance Company

Before your parents can sign up a Medicare Advantage plan, they’ll have to be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. Once enrolled, they’ll most likely have access to Part D, which (as you learned) covers prescription medications. If your parents are already taking prescription medications, make sure the prescriptions they need will be covered under the plans their considering.

It helps to know that there are a variety of Medicare Advantage plans that exist. There’s a lot to consider when preparing to enroll your aging parents. Before they select a plan, compare Medicare Advantage plans side by side so you can see exactly what plans would work for them.

Another thing to consider with Medicare Advantage plans hosted through private insurance companies is whether they want a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). HMOs are more predictable than PPOs and have a list of in-network doctors your parents can choose from, while PPOs are more flexible in that they can chose either in-network or out-of-network providers to render their services. However, they’ll usually pay more for out-of-network providers so make sure they consider that before deciding whether they want an HMO or PPO. With a PPO plan, beneficiaries generally don’t require a referral to see a specialist, which cuts down on waiting time.

Choosing the Right Plans for Your Parents

Choosing the right Medicare Advantage plan for your aging parents can be tricky, but with the above information, you should be able to make an informed decision with just a bit more research. Start shopping today to ensure your parents are covered throughout their retirement years.