What Is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, allows those eligible for Medicare benefits to choose approved private health insurance plans instead of regular Medicare coverage. Companies providing Medicare Advantage coverage must offer all the benefits of standard Medicare, although copayments and premiums are not always the same.

Medicare Advantage plans take care of the coverage for the hospital insurance of Medicare Part A and the medical insurance of Medicare Part B. Additionally, they usually offer the prescription drug coverage of Medicare Part D. If they don't, participants can purchase Part D coverage through standard Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans also frequently offer extra coverage for special services, such as hearing, vision, dental, chiropractic, acupuncture, health and wellness and gym memberships. Many Medicare Advantage plans have specific networks of doctors and hospitals to which patients are required to go to receive coverage. Those who use out-of-network specialists must pay for the treatment out of pocket unless it is approved by the Medicare Advantage plan provider.

The cost of a Medicare Part C plan depends on whether the patient uses network providers, whether the plan has a monthly premium, the cost of deductibles and copays, any special services needed and the plan's annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses.