What is Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)?

Learn all about what Medicare Part C is (also known as Medicare Advantage, what it covers, how much it might cost you, and how it differs from Original Medicare. Our overview of Medicare Part C answers all your questions in a clear and concise way.
What is Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)?

Medicare Advantage (part C) is a Medicare health plan that includes Part A, Part B, and usually Part D. These plans are offered by a private company that is contracted with Medicare. These plans may offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. This may include dental, vision, hearing, and prescription medication. Any copayments for primary care physician and specialist appointments, as well as for medications, are your responsibility. The cost varies based on your plan.* You are typically limited to using doctors who are part of the plan's network.* Before your plan will cover particular medications or services, you may have to obtain approval for it.* Plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare.* Plans may provide additional benefits including vision, hearing, and dental care that Original Medicare does not.If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will still have Medicare, but your Medicare Advantage Plan will provide the majority of your Part A and Part B coverage rather than Original Medicare. You must use the card given by your Medicare Advantage Plan to access Medicare-covered treatments. Keep your red, white, and blue Medicare cards in a safe place because you may be required to display them for certain services. You'll also need it if you ever return to Original Medicare.## The Difference Between Medicare Original and Medicaid Advantage?### Doctor & Hospital Choice| Original Medicare | Medicare Advantage (Part C) || --- | --- || In the United States, you can visit any medical facility or doctor who accepts Medicare. | In many instances, you are limited to using medical professionals and other service providers in the plan's network and coverage region (for non-emergency care). A higher price is usually charged for some plans' non-emergency coverage outside of their network. || In most circumstances, seeing a specialist does not require a referral. | You might need a referral to consult a specialist. |### Cost| Original Medicare | Medicare Advantage (Part C) || --- | --- || After meeting your deductible, you normally pay 20% of the Medicare-approved cost for Part B-covered treatments. This is referred to as your coinsurance. | Out-of-pocket expenses vary per plan, with some having lower or higher out-of-pocket fees for specific treatments. || You pay a monthly fee for Part B. If you join a Medicare drug plan, you will pay a separate premium for your prescription coverage (Part D). | You pay the monthly Part B payment and might also pay toward the plan's premium. Some plans may have no premium and may pay all or portion of your Part B premium. Most plans offer Medicare prescription coverage (Part D). || Unless you have extra coverage, such as Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap), there is no yearly restriction on how much you spend out of pocket. | Plans have a yearly cap on how much you pay out of pocket for Medicare Part A and Part B services. Once you've reached your plan's maximum out-of-pocket, you won't have to pay anything for services covered by Parts A and B for the remainder of the year. || You can acquire Medigap to help cover your remaining out-of-pocket expenses (such as your 20% coinsurance). You can also use coverage from a previous company or union and Medicaid. | You cannot purchase Medigap and do not require it. |### Coverage| Original Medicare | Medicare Advantage (Part C) || --- | --- || The majority of medically required services and supplies at hospitals, physicians' offices, and other healthcare institutions are covered by Original Medicare. Some benefits, such as eye exams, most dental care, and regular checkups, are not covered under original Medicare. | Plans must cover all medically essential services and supplies that Original Medicare covers. Plans may also provide additional benefits that Original Medicare does not, such as vision, hearing, and dental care. || To receive Medicare drug coverage, you must enroll in a separate Medicare drug plan (Part D). | Most plans provide Medicare Part D drug coverage. Most Medicare Advantage Plans do not allow you to join a separate Medicare drug plan. || In most circumstances, getting a service or product authorized ahead of time is not required for Original Medicare to cover it. | In many circumstances, you must obtain approval for a service or supply ahead of time in order for the plan to cover it. |### Foreign Travel| Original Medicare | Medicare Advantage (Part C) || --- | --- || Original Medicare normally does not cover medical care received outside of the United States. You may be able to purchase Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) that covers emergency medical treatment outside of the United States. | In general, plans do not cover medical care received outside of the United States. Some plans may provide a supplementary benefit that covers emergency and urgently required care when traveling outside the United States. |---## Types of Medicare Advantage PlansMedicare Advantage programs come in a variety of forms. These plans are offered by commercial insurance providers that have received approval from Medicare, and they are permitted to include additional coverage beyond Part A and Part B. For instance, some plans provide prescription medication coverage. Plans may also include regular dental and eye treatment as well as other medical services that Original Medicare does not cover (Part A and Part B).**Continue to read:** [Types of Medicare Advantage plans](/medicare/basics/types-of-medicare-advantage-plans)