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IBX Insights

Making an Informed Medicare Plan Choice

By September 16, 2019December 31st, 2020Health Insurance Medicare
An older man considers something, while sitting at his computer

Many people find choosing a Medicare plan a little overwhelming. There are so many unfamiliar terms, rules, and options! It’s really important to choose wisely. After all, what’s more important than your health?

Take a deep breath and let us break it down for you. It’s a lot more manageable if you take it one step at a time.

1. Know Your Plan Options

There are three health insurance solutions for Medicare beneficiaries.

  • The first, most basic option is Original Medicare. The federal government manages Original Medicare through an agency called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Original Medicare includes hospital care (called Part A) and medical insurance (Part B), and covers many health care-related costs. It’s a fee-for-service program, though, meaning that for most services and medical supplies, beneficiaries pay some part of the cost.

It also doesn’t pay for prescription drugs (Part D), so beneficiaries must either enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug coverage plan (called a prescription drug plan, or PDP) or enroll in more comprehensive coverage (see Medicare Advantage plans below). For most people, Social Security benefits pay for the premium associated with Part A. There is a monthly fee for Part B benefits.

Because Original Medicare leaves seniors responsible for some costs, two more options were created. These offer added coverage and peace of mind.

  • The second option is a Medicare Supplement plan, sometimes also called a Medigap plan. It works in addition to Original Medicare. For an added premium, these plans cover some or all the costs that Original Medicare doesn’t provide for, so your out-of-pocket costs are lower. Medigap plans can cover costs like copays and deductibles, but they generally don’t cover things like long-term care or vision care. They also don’t include prescription drug coverage (called Part D) either, so beneficiaries still may need to enroll in a PDP, with a separate monthly premium.
  • The third option for Medicare coverage is a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. Administered by private insurance companies like Independence Blue Cross (Independence), these plans provide all of your Original Medicare benefits as well as coverage that’s broader and more robust. When MA plans include Part D benefits to cover prescription drugs, they’re called Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans (MAPD).

MA and MAPD plans might remind you of the options available from your employer when you or your spouse were working; they tend to be best for individuals who would like to simplify their coverage so that they receive all their benefits from one insurance provider. They cover everything that Original Medicare pays for plus additional benefits, like hearing aids. Beneficiaries must continue to pay their Part B premiums in addition to their MA or MAPD premium, but there are options to choose from at a range of price points, including some with a $0 monthly premium, like our Keystone 65 Basic HMO plan.

2. Review Your Costs

Once you understand the three options for Medicare coverage – Original Medicare, Medicare Supplement, and Medicare Advantage – it’s time to think about health care costs. These vary widely from one person to another, depending on everything from your overall health to where you live and how easily you can access doctors and hospitals. There are a few key things to think about when considering health care costs.

  • Do you mind sharing in the cost of your health care, like paying a copay for seeing a provider, or do you prefer to have a higher monthly premium so you don’t have to pay every time you see the doctor?
  • Are you looking for an all-in-one plan that covers both your medical care and your Part D prescription drugs?
  • Do you mind staying within a network of doctors, or do you want the flexibility to see any doctor that accepts Original Medicare?

3. Take Advantage of Available Resources

No one has to navigate Medicare alone. Register for a webinar to learn more about the basics of Medicare. You can also reach out to a local Independence agent to arrange a one-on-one consultation about your plan options, or call us if you have questions! Our agents are standing by to help answer your questions. Take advantage of the resources available to you, and you’ll be an informed Medicare consumer in no time.

Website last updated: 9/4/20


Independence Blue Cross offers Medicare Advantage plans with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Independence Medicare Advantage plans depends on contract renewal.


Kortney Cruz

As Senior Vice President of Government Markets at Independence Blue Cross, Kortney provides overall leadership to Independence’s Medicare businesses, including operations, sales and marketing, risk analytics, and performance management, as well as oversight of the company’s Medicare STAR ratings initiatives and marketing Keystone HMO CHIP products and services to the communities we serve, and helping those communities enroll into the Medicare and CHIP coverage they need. She is directly responsible for acquisition and member retention marketing, product development, sales operations, and sales management at Independence in the Medicare and Keystone HMO CHIP area. Her goal is to deliver innovative and value-driven communications, and she is passionate about enriching the connection between Independence Blue Cross and our membership.