Prepare and compare to find the best Advantage plan for you.
Medicare Advantage is private insurance’s counterpart to Original Medicare. It’s a great alternative for receiving your Medicare coverage. Rather than purchasing individual components through Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage bundles benefits from Part A and Part B and can even include drug coverage, vision, dental, hearing, and fitness benefits.
If you’re ready to join a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you can easily enroll in one of two ways.
How to apply for Medicare Advantage: The basics
There are two ways to enroll in Medicare Advantage:
- On the phone: This option works well for people who want personal help finding the best plan for their needs—see the number below.
- On the Medicare.gov plan finder: This option is best for people who want to see and compare every plan available. Full disclosure: It’s not an easy process, but we’ll walk you through each step.
If you have questions or are ready to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan now, call an agent.
Enrolling in Medicare Advantage: What you’ll need
To join a Medicare Advantage plan, you must first enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B. You’ll need your Medicare card and the effective dates for your Part A and Part B coverage when you sign up for a plan.
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Applying for Medicare Advantage by phone
If you’re more comfortable getting help from a trained representative, you’ll probably like the phone option best. After helping you find the right plan, an expert will walk you through the whole process of joining Medicare Advantage. Here’s all you need to do:
- Call 855-802-1206: Representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MST).
- Speak with an agent: You’ll provide information and answer questions about your medications and other relevant details.
- Enroll in a plan: The representative will help you find the best plan for your needs, and you can enroll right on the phone. Nice and easy.
Applying for Medicare Advantage with Medicare’s plan finder
To select a Medicare Advantage plan with Medicare’s plan finder, you’ll first do a search without adding any medications (we’ll add them later).
If you want a plan without drug coverage—because you either already have creditable drug coverage or don’t take medications—you don’t have to go any further after “search 1.” Choose a plan and enroll.
If you want a plan with drug coverage that gives you specific costs for the drugs you take, continue onto “search 2.” Then you can accurately compare the results of both searches to make the best decision for your needs.
The reason you might need two searches is because Medicare’s plan finder lumps together a few too many variables into one search. If you try to do both searches in one fell swoop, the results from the drug plans will skew our results based solely on drug coverage. But as you’ll soon see, there is much more to a Medicare Advantage plan than drug coverage.
Don’t worry, though—we’ll walk you through each step. By the time we’re through, you’ll find the best Medicare Advantage plan for your needs.
- Go to the Medicare Plan Finder. Enter your ZIP code and click “Find Plans.”
- Answer the questions. Under “Would you like to add drugs?” select, “I don’t want to add drugs now.” Continue to plan results.
- Check one of the “Medicare Health Plans” boxes—with or without drug coverage. If you are getting drug coverage, select “…with drug coverage.” If not, and if you are skipping the second search, select “…without drug coverage.” Continue to plan results.
- Click “View All” to see all the plans. Now that you’ve arrived on the list of Medicare Advantage plans available in your area, you can begin comparing.
- Select up to three plans you like best. Check the boxes inside the red squares of the plan, then click “Compare Plans” to see them side by side.
- Compare side by side. From here, you can drill down into the details of each plan and see which ones stand out. The tab that will help the most is the “Health and Drug Plan Benefits” tab, so be sure to look at the information there.
- If you’re moving to “search 2” (adding drug coverage), write down the names of these plans. You’ll need them to compare after you add your medications in the next search.
- If you’re not adding drug coverage, enroll. Don’t worry about the second search. Enroll by selecting the button next to the plan name.
How to narrow down MA plans
You may have your own criteria to weed out plans initially. Here are some ideas to help you further narrow the field:
- Reference the Medicare Star Rating, from one to five. Avoid plans with a red warning icon—they’ve received poor quality ratings for three years in a row.
- See if you can you continue to see your current doctor.
- Look for your preferred plan type (HMO, PPO, PFFS, etc.).
- Compare plans to see if you’ll have to pay premiums or deductibles.
- Take into account any extra perks the plan offers, such as vision, dental, hearing aids, or fitness programs (such as Silver&Fit or the SilverSneakers program).
Once you’ve found your top three (or so) plans based on their criteria and any of your own, you can then add your medications list and compare drug coverage in “search 2.”
Above the heading “Your Plan Results,” you should see a list of subheads separated by arrows.
- Click on the subhead “Enter Your Drugs.” You’ll go back to the section you skipped during the first search. Enter medications that you currently take.
- Enter your medications one at a time. Be sure you type the name, dosage, and frequency exactly as they appear on the label. Then click “My Drug List is Complete.”
- Select two pharmacies. Unfortunately, you’re limited to two options for pharmacy comparisons, so enter the two you are most likely to use. Click “Continue to Plan Results.”
- Find the top three plans from your first search. Check the boxes, then click “compare plans” to see them side by side again, with prescriptions now included. Now that you can see how your hand-picked plans will cover your medications, you can make an informed decision about which plan is best for you overall.
- Enroll. Now that you’ve done the research, you’re ready to click on the “Enroll” button next to the plan name, or go to the plan’s website (linked on the page) and complete your enrollment.
A word of advice
However you do your analysis, don’t base your decision solely on the “estimated annual cost.” This is a guess about how much healthcare will cost in a year under a certain plan, but it’s not specific to you. How you use your health insurance cannot be accurately estimated by anyone without detailed personal information (or a crystal ball).
For example, once you get to the end of both searches, you may notice that the plan you initially liked best doesn’t have quite as good drug coverage as the other two—perhaps because one of your medications is in a more expensive tier. Or, as you compare, you may see that while one plan provides better drug coverage, doctor visits are more expensive.
If that’s true, think about how often you go to the doctor compared to how many prescriptions you fill. Does one offset the other? Do some cost estimating to determine which plan will work best in the way you’re likely to use it.
That’s the gist of how you can apply for a Medicare Advantage plan online. It’s not a short process, but it’s thorough. If you’d rather not go through all these steps and do comparisons, we recommend applying over the phone.
When to apply for Medicare Advantage
If you’re new to Medicare, you’ll want to enroll in an MA Plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP).
This period lasts for seven months—three months before the month when you turn 65, and three months after.
If you’ve delayed signing up for Medicare because you still have coverage from your current employer, you can sign up during a Special Enrollment Period. There’s also a Fall Open Enrollment Period (October 15 through December 7) during which you may sign up. Learn about enrollment periods and when they apply to you.
After you apply for Medicare Advantage
Once you’ve enrolled in a plan, the insurance company is responsible for providing the following information:
- Confirmation number
- Notice that the insurer received your application
- Notification of acceptance or rejection of your application
- Proof of your coverage and its effective date
- Charges you’re responsible for
- Lock-in requirement, which means you’re required to keep the plan for the rest of the year, unless you meet special circumstances or qualify for an enrollment period
Ready to apply for Medicare Advantage?
Check out Medicare’s plan finder or give us a call. We’ll be happy to guide you through the process.
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