8 Extra Benefits in Most Medicare Advantage Plans for 2021

seniors reviewing Medicare Advantage plans
Photo by fizkes / Shutterstock.com

For seniors considering switching to a Medicare Advantage plan during the current Medicare open enrollment period — which runs through Dec. 7 — choosing a plan might be tougher than ever.

The number of Medicare Advantage plans for 2021 is greater than ever, according to a recent analysis by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Nationwide, there are 3,550 Medicare Advantage plans for 2021 — a 13% increase from just one plan year prior.

That doesn’t mean seniors will have that many plans to choose from, though. Medicare Advantage plans are the private insurance alternative to traditional Medicare. They are offered by private insurers that contract with the federal government’s Medicare program, so plan availability can vary widely from county to county.

On average, seniors will have access to 33 Medicare Advantage plans for 2021, according to the KFF analysis. That is up from 28 plans for 2020 and the highest average number of available plans in the past decade.

Besides the plan availability in their area, another factor that will help seniors narrow down their Medicare Advantage options is any “extra” benefits that come with a plan.

Medicare Advantage plans must provide all the same benefits as Original Medicare. But Medicare Advantage plans can offer additional benefits that aren’t covered by Original Medicare — and many do.

For example, the following “extra” benefits are offered by a majority of 2021 Medicare Advantage plans, according to the KFF analysis:

  1. Telehealth: Provided by 98% of plans
  2. Fitness benefit: 96%
  3. Preventive dental benefits (such as cleanings): 92%
  4. Eye exams and glasses: 91%
  5. Prescription drug coverage: 89%
  6. Hearing aids: 88%
  7. Over-the-counter items: 75%
  8. Meal benefit (such as a cooking class, nutrition education or meal delivery): 55%

Extras covered by only a minority of 2021 Medicare Advantage plans include:

  • Transportation benefits: 36%
  • Bathroom safety devices: 6%
  • In-home support: 6%

What’s the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage?

Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage are the two main types of Medicare.

Original Medicare is the traditional Medicare program offered directly by the federal government. Medicare Advantage plans are an all-in-one alternative offered by private insurance companies.

Choosing between these two options is perhaps the biggest decision Medicare recipients face. They must make it when they first enroll in Medicare, and they have an opportunity to switch from one type of Medicare to the other during open enrollment periods.

Original Medicare is currently the more popular of the two main options. As of 2019, 37.5% of all Medicare enrollees chose a Medicare Advantage plan, according to the latest annual report from the Medicare boards of trustees.

Medicare Advantage plans are growing in popularity, though. By 2029, an estimated 43.2% of Medicare enrollees will have one of these plans.

Be cautious when switching from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage

While Medicare Advantage plans are often considered a more affordable alternative to Original Medicare, deciding whether to switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage should not be done lightly.

Medicare Advantage is not for everyone, and switching to it can carry risk.

For example, one downside to Medicare Advantage plans is that they may limit you to a certain network of doctors. So, you might not be able to continue seeing the same doctor and still have the visits covered if you switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Advantage plans also require prior authorization more often than Original Medicare does, according to a 2018 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. As we explain in “8 Services Medicare Advantage Won’t Cover Without Preapproval“:

“Prior authorization requires enrollees to get approval from the plan before accessing a particular health care service. If the plan does not approve the service beforehand, the plan might not pay for the service — leaving the patient on the hook for the cost.”

Switching to Medicare Advantage is also risky for seniors with Original Medicare who also pay for a supplemental Medicare policy, also known as a Medigap policy.

If such seniors later decide to switch back to Original Medicare, they won’t necessarily be able to get the same Medigap policy back — or get a new Medigap policy at all. We explain this further in “4 Dangers for First-Time Medicare Enrollees.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead
25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead

If you really want to save money, become a more intentional shopper.

8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers
8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers

The Product of the Year awards help shoppers find the best pet products, personal care items and everything in between.

16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need
16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need

There are plenty of great ways to spend your money, but you can safely leave these products on the store shelf.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect
Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect

Your third coronavirus payment will be the biggest yet — and possibly even bigger than you realize.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.