The plans aren't without their caveats. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. For many programs, you're limited to using in-network doctors only. There's also usually more cost sharing when you sign up for Medicare Advantage versus original Medicare.
Additionally, Medicare Advantage is aimed at people who stay close to home, says Ross Blair, CEO of the Medicare plan comparison site PlanPrescriber.com. You're tied to a specific doctor and network. If you leave the network, you may not be covered. Blair says the plans are best in metro areas, where a greater number of Medicare Advantage plans are offered.
Which type of MA plan is best for you?
Most people sign up for Medicare HMOs rather than PPOs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, usually get higher ratings than preferred provider organizations, or PPOs, but you can only use your in-network doctor. Conversely, PPOs may cover some of the medical costs outside a network.
A third option -- private fee-for-service, or PFFS, plans -- should be avoided, says Blair. Costs can run higher than original Medicare plans, and doctors may be harder to find because you're not part of a network.
Within these categories, plans vary widely. Some may cover vision or dental, others enhanced drug coverage. The key is looking at total annual plan costs, copays and deductibles, says Blair.