Should You Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage?

Takeaway: Explore the ins and outs of Original Medicare vs Medicare Advantage. Learn about coverage, costs, benefits, drawbacks, and how to make the switch. Proinsurance Hawaii can help you find the right fit.

Medicare to Medicare Advantage

When it comes to Medicare, you have choices. Many people start with Original Medicare, but there is another option: Medicare Advantage. If you are considering switching to Medicare Advantage, it’s crucial to understand the differences and weigh the pros and cons. In this blog, we’ll explore the key aspects of Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage to help you make an informed decision.

What is Original Medicare?

Original Medicare, often referred to as Traditional Medicare, is the foundational health insurance program provided directly by the federal government. Designed primarily for individuals aged 65 and over, it also extends coverage to younger people with certain disabilities.

  • Part A: Hospital Insurance, which covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care.
  • Part B: Medical Insurance, which covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.
Benefits of Original Medicare
  1. Unmatched Freedom of Choice: Original Medicare allows you to visit any doctor, specialist, or healthcare provider across the United States who accepts Medicare. This freedom is invaluable if you have specific preferences or require specialized care.

  2. Consistent Coverage: Original Medicare coverage is standardized nationwide, ensuring you receive the same benefits and protections no matter where you live or travel. This eliminates the need to worry about varying coverage based on your location.

  3. Flexibility with Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D): Original Medicare doesn’t include prescription drug coverage, but you can choose to enroll in a stand-alone Part D plan. This allows you to select a plan with a formulary (list of covered drugs) and costs that align with your individual medication needs.
Drawbacks of Original Medicare
  1. No Out-of-Pocket Maximum: Original Medicare lacks an annual out-of-pocket maximum, meaning there’s no limit on how much you might have to pay for covered services in a year. This can be a concern for those with significant health needs or facing high healthcare costs.

  2. Potential for Supplemental Insurance (Medigap): To help cover the gaps in Original Medicare, like deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, many people opt for Medigap (Medicare Supplement) policies. While these policies offer additional protection, they come with extra premium costs.

  3. Limited Coverage for Dental, Vision, and Hearing: Original Medicare typically doesn’t cover routine dental care, vision exams and eyeglasses, or hearing aids. This means you’ll likely need to budget for these expenses or consider alternative coverage options.
What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. These plans include all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B and often include additional benefits like prescription drug coverage (Part D), dental, vision, and hearing care.

Benefits of Medicare Advantage
  • All-in-One Plans: One of the most appealing features of Medicare Advantage is the convenience of having all your essential healthcare coverage bundled into a single plan. This means you don’t have to juggle multiple plans for hospital insurance, medical insurance, and prescription drug coverage. Everything is conveniently managed under one umbrella, simplifying your healthcare experience and streamlining your paperwork.

  • Additional Benefits: Many Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare does not, such as gym memberships, wellness programs, and routine dental and vision care.

  • Out-of-Pocket Maximum: Unlike Original Medicare, which has no limit on out-of-pocket costs, Medicare Advantage plans come with an annual out-of-pocket maximum. This cap provides peace of mind, knowing that your healthcare expenses won’t exceed a certain amount in a given year. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with chronic conditions or those who anticipate needing extensive medical care.
Drawbacks of Medicare Advantage
  1. Network Restrictions: You may have to use a network of doctors and hospitals and may need referrals to see specialists. Some Medicare Advantage plans require referrals from your primary care physician (PCP) to see specialists. This means you may need to get approval from your PCP before seeing a specialist, which can add an extra step to the process and potentially delay your access to specialized care.

  2. Plan Variability: Benefits can vary significantly from one plan to another and from one year to the next, requiring careful comparison.

  3. Prior Authorization: Many Medicare Advantage plans require prior authorization for certain services, such as specialist visits, surgeries, or expensive medications. This means you or your doctor may need to obtain approval from the insurance company before you can receive these services. The prior authorization process can take time and may delay your access to necessary care.


The Pros and Cons of Switching

FeatureOriginal MedicareMedicare Advantage
PremiumsUsually higher Part B premiumsOften lower premiums, but may have plan-specific costs
NetworkSee any doctor who accepts MedicareLimited to doctors within the plan’s network
Additional BenefitsRequires supplemental plans for extra coverageMay include vision, dental, hearing, prescription drugs, and more
Out-of-Pocket CostsNo out-of-pocket maximumYearly out-of-pocket maximum for added financial protection
When Should You Consider Switching from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage?

While Original Medicare provides a solid foundation for your healthcare needs, certain situations might make switching to Medicare Advantage a more appealing option. Consider making the change if:

  • You Want More Comprehensive Coverage: If you’re looking for a plan that bundles medical and prescription drug coverage together, and potentially includes dental, vision, and hearing benefits, Medicare Advantage can be a convenient choice. In fact, a 2023 KFF study showed that 99% of Medicare Advantage enrollees had access to some form of vision coverage, 95% had dental coverage, and 92% had hearing coverage, compared to much lower percentages for those on Original Medicare. (Source: KFF –

  • You Want to Limit Out-of-Pocket Costs: Medicare Advantage plans have an annual out-of-pocket maximum, which can offer financial protection if you anticipate needing extensive medical care. This can be especially beneficial if you have chronic conditions or require frequent medical services.

  • You’re Comfortable with a Provider Network: If you’re satisfied with receiving care from a specific network of doctors and hospitals, a Medicare Advantage plan might be a good fit. It’s crucial to ensure that your preferred providers are included in the plan’s network before switching.

  • You’re Healthy and Want to Take Advantage of Extra Benefits: Many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits like gym memberships, wellness programs, and telehealth services. If you’re in good health and want to take advantage of these perks, Medicare Advantage can be an attractive option.
In Hawaii, Medicare Advantage is a Popular Choice:
It’s worth noting that Medicare Advantage is a popular choice among Medicare beneficiaries in Hawaii. According to, over 53% of Hawaii Medicare beneficiaries opt for Medicare Advantage plans, surpassing the national average. (Source: – This suggests that many residents find value in the comprehensive coverage, extra benefits, and potential cost savings offered by Medicare Advantage plans.

How to Switch to Medicare Advantage

  • If you decide to switch to Medicare Advantage, here’s how you can do it:

    1. Enroll During Open Enrollment: You can switch during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period from October 15 to December 7 each year. Your new coverage will begin on January 1 of the following year.

    2. Use the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period: If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to a different one, you can do so from January 1 to March 31 each year.

    3. Research Plans: Use the Medicare Plan Finder tool or consult with a licensed insurance agent to compare plans in your area.

Here are some key eligibility details:

  1. No Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions: During these periods, you can’t be denied Medicare Advantage coverage or charged higher premiums based on your pre-existing conditions.

  2. Exceptions: There might be some special circumstances where you can switch outside of these enrollment periods (e.g., if you move to a new area).

    It’s important to note that switching to Medicare Advantage means you’ll give up your Original Medicare coverage. You’ll receive all your Medicare-covered benefits through the Medicare Advantage plan.

    If you’re considering making the switch, it’s highly recommended to speak with a licensed insurance agent to discuss your options and understand the potential impacts on your coverage.

    Read More:

Why Hawaii Residents Need to Consider Medicare Supplement Policies
How to Lower Healthcare Costs with Medicare Advantage Plans
Understanding the Different Stages of Medicare Enrollment

Proinsurance Hawaii Can Help
Navigating the complexities of Medicare can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Proinsurance Hawaii offers expert guidance to help you understand your options and choose the plan that best meets your needs. Our knowledgeable agents can provide personalized advice and support, ensuring you make the best decision for your healthcare and financial well-being. Switching to Medicare Advantage can offer several benefits, including additional coverage and cost protections. However, it’s important to carefully consider your healthcare needs and preferences. By understanding the differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and with the support of professionals like Proinsurance Hawaii, you can make an informed decision that best suits your individual needs.