After you enroll in Medicare, your first order of business is to decide whether you want to get coverage from original Medicare — the government-run program that includes Part A hospitalization coverage and Part B doctor and outpatient services — or a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles Parts A and B and usually Part D prescription drug coverage.
Private insurers sell Medicare Advantage plans. The coverage is also known as Part C.
Most Medicare Advantage plans pay for services that original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as dental, hearing and vision care. But Medicare Advantage plans typically have provider networks that you must use.
Otherwise, you may have to pay more or forgo coverage if you choose an out-of-network doctor, hospital or other provider. Also, Medicare Advantage plan premiums, medical and drug coverage, out-of-pocket costs and provider networks can change from year to year.
Open enrollment, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year, is a good time to compare plans. You can sign up for Medicare Advantage then or switch plans.
8 steps to sign up for Medicare Advantage
1. You’ll see two options: Use your account and Continue without logging in. Log in to your online Medicare account, or go to the second section, where you’ll enter your zip code and may need to select your county.
Choose Medicare Advantage Plan from the Select a plan type dropdown menu. Click the blue Apply button and then the green Start button.
2. Indicate if you get help with your medical expenses. If you’re not sure, you can find out by logging in to your Medicare account.
3. If you don’t receive any help, you’ll be asked if you want to see your drug costs when you compare plans. Click Yes, so you can get the best sense of how much you might spend with each plan.