Medicare Coverage Plans, General Deadlines and What They Cover

Navigating Medicare

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans who are 65 years old or older, offers a range of coverage plans that can sometimes be bewildering to the average beneficiary. The right Medicare plan largely hinges on an individual’s health needs, budget and lifestyle, making it essential for beneficiaries to understand their options. In this article, we will look at some of the worst Medicare coverage plans while also highlighting some of the top plans available from different providers.

Medicare Coverage Quality

While it is difficult to pinpoint the "worst" plans—since the best choice for an individual may be unsuitable for another—there are some general traits to be cautious of when evaluating plans.

Medicare Advantage Plans with Concealed Expenses

While some Medicare Advantage Plans advertise $0 premiums, hidden costs such as high deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance fees may be present. A thorough examination and comparison of out-of-pocket expenses across plans are vital in making an informed decision.

Low-Rated Plans

Annually, Medicare assesses plans using a five-star rating system. Plans consistently receiving low ratings tend to offer subpar customer service and face challenges related to billing and claims support. Beneficiaries should exercise caution when considering plans with consistent ratings below three stars.

Plans with Restricted Networks and Referral Requirements

Certain Medicare Advantage plans boast narrow networks, limiting choices for doctors and hospitals. Additionally, seeing a specialist may necessitate a referral, introducing potential delays in care. It is essential to evaluate your flexibility in choosing providers and assess your comfort level with any associated restrictions.

Medigap Plans with High Deductibles

While Medigap plans assist in covering healthcare costs not included in Original Medicare, those with high deductibles may not suit everyone. For individuals requiring frequent medical visits or regular healthcare services, the elevated upfront expenses before coverage kicks in could result in unexpected financial burdens.

Prescription Drug Plans with Limited Formularies

Part D plans exhibit notable variations in formularies, listing the medications they cover. Some plans feature restrictive formularies that exclude specific drugs or categorize essential medications under higher-cost tiers, potentially leading to substantial out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries dependent on particular prescriptions.

Medicare Advantage Plans with Inflated Costs

Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, may provide extra benefits like dental, vision and hearing coverage, but some plans carry excessive expenses. Caution is advised against opting for plans with premiums that don't align with the added benefits, as they may not offer significant advantages over Original Medicare, especially when factoring in potential constraints on healthcare provider choices.

Top Medicare Plans

On the flip side, several Medicare Advantage and Part D plans are rated highly for their extensive coverage, reasonable pricing and customer satisfaction. Here are some details about top plans from notable providers, including their pros and cons.


AARP offers a range of Medicare plans that aim to provide additional coverage beyond Original Medicare, focusing on meeting seniors' healthcare needs.


  • Offers comprehensive coverage, including options for Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans.
  • Some plans may include extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing coverage.
  • AARP has a broad network of healthcare providers.
  • Members may qualify for additional discounts or benefits on certain plans.


  • May have higher premiums compared to other Medicare plans.
  • Plan availability and benefits can vary by location.
  • Some beneficiaries may find the array of plan options and features complex.

2. UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is a prominent Medicare provider that offers a wide range of health insurance products.


  • UnitedHealthcare has a wide network of providers.
  • Many plans offer additional perks like gym memberships.
  • Customer service is highly rated.


  • Premiums can be higher for certain plans.
  • It may have limited availability depending on the area.

3. Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is a prominent national integrated healthcare system and Medicare insurance plan provider.


  • High-quality care with an emphasis on prevention and wellness.
  • Integrates Medicare Parts A, B and D into one convenient plan.
  • Typically offers extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing.


  • Availability is limited to certain regions.
  • Must use Kaiser doctors and facilities, which might not suit those wanting more choice.

4. Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is a federation of independent health insurance companies that offer a variety of Medicare plans.


  • Offers Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans that provide more flexibility in choosing healthcare providers.
  • Serves customers across the country, which is great for those who travel.


  • Coverage specifics and costs can vary significantly between states.
  • Some plans may come with higher premiums.

5. Humana

Humana is a leading health insurance company that provides a variety of Medicare plans and wellness products and services.


  • Offers a variety of plan options to fit different needs and budgets.
  • Many plans include prescription drug coverage.
  • Online resources and tools for managing your plan and health are comprehensive.


  • Some plans come with a higher out-of-pocket responsibility.
  • Network restrictions can limit provider choice depending on the area.

Enrollment and General Deadlines

Enrollment for Medicare has specific time frames:

Initial enrollment period: This is the seven-month period that begins three months before you turn 65 and ends three months after that month.

General enrollment period: If you miss your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up between January 1 - March 31 each year.

Medicare Advantage open enrollment period: From January 1 - March 31 each year, if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or switch back to Original Medicare.

Fall open enrollment period: From October 15 - December 7 every year, you can change your Medicare health or drug plan for the following year.

Medicare Essentials

Navigating the myriad of Medicare coverage options can be challenging, but it is a crucial step toward securing healthcare peace of mind in retirement. By staying informed and proactive, Medicare beneficiaries can maximize their health coverage benefits while managing out-of-pocket expenses.

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