This is the fourth of a five-part series on the Parts of Medicare.

Medicare Part A, B and D are pretty good programs. They cover most medically necessary expenses you might face, but there are some gaps and out-of-pocket costs that can still be a significant burden. That’s where Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Supplement Plans come in. Today, we’ll give a brief overview of Advantage Plans, also known as Part C.

Here’s how it works: Medicare Advantage plans piggy-back on top of Parts A and B, so you’ll continue to pay your Part B premium, however you may pay an additional premium for the enhanced coverages you’d receive with an Advantage Plan. You may also have a zero-dollar premium (no cost) plan available to you as well depending on where you live. These plans are offered by private insurance companies, and they take over the administration of your Part A & B coverage.

The company you choose will pay claims, offer customer service, and oftentimes include additional benefits, like vision, dental and even fitness memberships. At the minimum, Advantage Plans are required to include all the coverage already offered by Parts A and B so you know you won’t be at a dis-advantage (see what I did there?) if you pick one of these plans instead of just keeping Original Medicare Parts A & B. As I mentioned briefly above, in many cases, there are no additional monthly premiums for these plans which means you may have access to better coverage than Part A and B for no more than your current Part B premium!

Some Medicare Advantage plans may even have prescription drug benefits rolled in, so you wouldn’t need to sign up for a separate Part D plan.

At this point, it might sound too good to be true. Just keep in mind that it’s not always a no-brainer: the plans available change depending on where you live and it’s possible that you live in area that doesn’t have access to an Advantage Plan that meets your needs. You may be better off improving your Medicare benefits with a Medicare Supplement instead.

You have to be signed up for Parts A and B before you can get signed up on an Advantage plan. Check out our previous articles for more info about how to sign-up, or you can request our free “Steps to Medicare” guide below for easy-to-follow instructions on getting set-up with Medicare. When you first become eligible for Medicare and/or when you first sign-up for Parts A and B is when you’ll need to sign up for an Advantage Plan. If you don’t sign-up then, you’ll have to wait for open enrollment which starts in mid-October.

Check in next week to learn more about Medicare Supplements and as always, feel free to contact a Licensed Sales Agent at Get Benefits to review your options.

Click here for Part 5 in our series: What is a Medicare Supplement?

Part C: Medicare has gaps, but you might have an advantage