There are plenty of good reasons to choose a Medicare Advantage plan over original Medicare. Advantage plans generally offer a wider scope of coverage than original Medicare, picking up the tab for services like dental exams, hearing aids, and vision screenings. Many Advantage plans also offer wellness benefits -- like gym memberships -- and supplemental benefits, like transportation to and from medical appointments and meal delivery.
But not all Advantage plans are created equal, and if you're on a new one, you may be discovering that it doesn't really fulfill your needs. Or you may have opted to keep the same Advantage plan you previously had, only to find that it's changed in a way that makes it less of a good fit.
If that's the case, you're in luck. All Medicare Advantage enrollees have the option to swap an existing Advantage plan for a new one -- but you'll need to act quickly. The deadline to switch your plan is March 31, and if you don't get moving, you could get stuck with a not-so-great plan for the rest of the year.
Should you switch your Advantage plan?
If there are things about your Advantage plan that you don't like, you may be tempted to make a change. But before you do, you'll need to take one important step -- make sure there's another plan out there that addresses your current plan's shortfall.
Say there's a specific supplemental benefit you're hoping to score with an Advantage plan. You may do your research to find that no Advantage plans in your area offer that benefit, in which case, it could pay to stick with your current plan.
On the other hand, if your favored providers are no longer in-network with your current Advantage plan, it could pay to switch to a new one where they're considered in-network. Similarly, if you've started taking a new medication that's not covered or costs a lot under your Advantage plan's formula, it could make sense to find a plan under which that prescription costs you a lot less.
Of course, you don't have to switch to another Medicare Advantage plan if you don't want to -- you can revert to original Medicare instead. The benefit of original Medicare is that you can seek out care pretty much anywhere in the country, and you won't be limited to what could be a pretty narrow provider network. Also, your premium costs may or may not be cheaper under original Medicare -- it all depends what you're paying for an Advantage plan. (To be clear, some Advantage plans are less expensive than the cost of original Medicare plus a Part D drug plan.)
If you decide to move over to original Medicare, be prepared to cover the cost of dental care, eye exams, and hearing aids out of pocket. But that switch could still be worthwhile if it makes it easier for you to access the care you need.
No matter what new plan you decide to get, if you're unhappy with your current Advantage plan, be sure to make that switch in the next few weeks. Once the March 31 deadline passes, you won't be able to make any changes until fall open enrollment kicks off in October, and you don't want to risk getting stuck with a bad plan for the rest of the year and struggling to address your healthcare needs because of it.