For most Medicare enrollees, the choice will come down to either a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) or Traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) combined with a separate Part D plan (prescription drug coverage) and a Medigap policy.
Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurers, which provide Traditional Medicare coverage bundled with other services such as prescription drug, dental, and vision coverage, or even things such as gym memberships. Medicare Advantage plans are generally the most affordable options over a lifetime, but they come at the expense of flexibility, because they require you to conform to the limitations of a particular health network and may require preapprovals for certain treatments. It can also be difficult to navigate the system of copayments and coinsurance, which may cost you more if you experience a worst-case health scenario.
Those who are willing to spend a bit more—or are in poor health—may prefer Traditional Medicare with separate Part D and Medigap policies from private insurers. This combination will tend to offer the most comprehensive medical coverage and the flexibility to see any doctor that takes Medicare, anywhere in the country, without preapprovals. However, it generally won’t cover vision, dental, and hearing services, which may be offered by a Medicare Advantage plan.