Coming up on my 65th birthday, I have been exploring Medicare. It’s not simple. After enrolling in basic Medicare, you have to choose a supplement and a drug program. The best time to do this is during the Open Enrollment Period beginning on the first day of the month you turn age 65 or older. During this period, you are guaranteed to join any plan, regardless of any pre-existing conditions.

There are two basic ways to go: Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement known as Medigap. Medicare Advantage plans replace Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, while Medigap plans add onto your Original Medicare coverage.

Benefits and coverage under the 10 standardized Medigap plans are the same in the 47 states that offer them. Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage that varies according to each plan or organization and location.

Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage. Medigap doesn’t offer drug coverage, so you have to enroll in a separate prescription drug plan.

I chose Medigap because even though it has a higher premium (but still nothing close to what I used to pay for health insurance each month), there are no deductibles or co-pays and it works the same with any provider throughout the United States. Best of all, it is a huge relief to sidestep the ongoing UPMC/Highmark battles.

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