Medicare Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, are private health insurance plans, mainly HMOs and PPOs, for people enrolled in Medicare. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you still have Medicare, but you get all of your Medicare-covered benefits through a private plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drugs and may cover other services, such as vision, dental, and hearing benefits. If you have Part A and Part B already, and are covered under the traditional Medicare program, you do not need to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan during Open Enrollment unless you want to get your Medicare benefits through a private plan.
Medicare Part D is the Medicare prescription drug benefit which is offered by private stand-alone prescription drug plans, sometimes called PDPs, and Medicare Advantage plans that cover drugs. If you are covered under traditional Medicare and you want drug coverage, you can enroll in a stand-alone drug plan during the Medicare Open Enrollment period. If you did not sign up for a Part D plan when you got your Part A and Part B coverage and you do not have another source of drug coverage that is at least as good as Part D coverage, be aware that you may be charged a late enrollment penalty. Once you are enrolled in a Part D plan, you can switch drug plans during the Medicare Open Enrollment period.
To learn more about the Medicare Advantage plans and the Medicare Part D plans in your area, you can use the Medicare Plan Finder, a searchable tool on the Medicare.gov website. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or speak to someone at your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIPs offer local, personalized counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. You can call 877-839-2675 to get the phone number for the SHIP in your state.