What Is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare.
Kate Ashford, CSA®
By Kate Ashford, CSA® 
Edited by Holly Carey

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Nerdy takeaways
  • Medicare Part C is another name for Medicare Advantage.

  • Medicare Part C bundles the benefits of Medicare Part A and Part B and usually offers additional benefits.

  • Medicare Part C is offered by private insurance companies.

  • Medicare Part C plans generally require that you get care from a limited network of medical providers.

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What is Medicare Part C?

Medicare Part C is just another name for Medicare Advantage, which is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare — meaning it includes Medicare Part A (hospital coverage), Medicare Part B (medical insurance) and usually Medicare Part D (drug coverage).

Medicare Part C plans are offered by private companies that have been approved by Medicare. Most plans provide benefits that aren’t covered under Original Medicare, and some plans also offer benefits tailored to certain chronic conditions.

Medicare Part C coverage

Medicare Part C plans offer all the benefits of Medicare Part A and Part B, with a few exceptions

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Advantage Plans cover all Medicare services. Accessed Apr 3, 2023.

  • Clinical trials (Original Medicare covers some of these costs).

  • Hospice services (Original Medicare covers the cost of hospice).

  • Some new Medicare benefits, which temporarily are covered by Original Medicare.

Most Medicare Advantage plans include Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. And the majority offer additional benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t offer

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Understanding Medicare Advantage Plans. Accessed Apr 3, 2023.
, such as the following:

  • Cost help with dental and vision care.

  • Some hearing benefits.

  • Fitness benefits.

  • Transportation to doctor visits.

  • Over-the-counter drug allowances.

  • Meal delivery after a hospital stay.

Medicare Part C isn’t required to cover services that aren’t deemed medically necessary under Medicare.

What does Medicare Part C cost?

Out-of-pocket costs vary for Medicare Part C, but will typically include the following expenses:

  • A monthly premium: A large percentage of Medicare Advantage plans charge a $0 premium, but not all of them do

    . The average monthly premium, including plans with a $0 premium, is $18 per month in 2023.

  • Medicare Part B premium: You’ll still be responsible for paying your Part B premium, which is $164.90 per month in 2023. But some Medicare Part C plans pay part or all of your Part B premium as a benefit of the plan.

  • Copays and coinsurance: Different plans charge different amounts when you see a medical provider, in or out of network.

  • Deductible: The deductible is the amount of eligible medical costs you must pay out of pocket before your plan starts paying for care.

Advantages of Medicare Part C

  • Instead of having Medicare Parts A, B and D, all coverage under Medicare Part C is bundled into one plan.

  • There are typically extra benefits available, such as cost help with dental, vision and hearing care.

  • Your out-of-pocket costs could be lower than with Original Medicare.

  • You still receive all the rights and protections of Medicare.

Disadvantages of Medicare Part C

  • Your list of in-network health care providers will be smaller than with Original Medicare.

  • You may have to get referrals or authorizations for some services, depending on your plan type

    Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Specialists & referrals in Medicare Advantage Plans. Accessed Apr 3, 2023.

  • Your plan may not cover you if you travel outside your service area.

  • You may not be able to get a Medigap plan if you return to Original Medicare, or it may cost more

    Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. When can I buy Medigap?. Accessed Apr 3, 2023.

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Medicare Part C plan options

Medicare Part C comes in several types, much like non-Medicare health insurance, with different requirements for finding care providers. In a health maintenance organization, or HMO plan, for instance, you need to see in-network health care providers unless it’s an emergency, and you need a referral to see a specialist. In a preferred provider organization, or PPO plan, you can see both in-network and out-of-network health care providers, although you typically pay more to go out of network.

Types of Medicare Advantage plans include

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Advantage Plans. Accessed Apr 3, 2023.

  • HMO plans.

  • HMO point-of-service, or HMO-POS plans.

  • PPO plans.

  • Private fee-for-service, or PFFS plans.

  • Special needs plans, or SNPs.

  • Medical savings account, or MSA plans.

Signing up for Medicare Part C

You can sign up for a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan at the following times:

To sign up for a Medicare Part C plan, you must have Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Use Medicare’s plan finding tool to find and compare plans in your area.

Companies offering Medicare Part C must follow certain regulations set by federal and state law, but out-of-pocket costs and rules for accessing services may differ from plan to plan, and companies can change those aspects from year to year. Compare each plan’s rules, benefits and costs before choosing one that’s right for you.

If you're already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch plans during Medicare's fall open enrollment period or during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Medicare Advantage companies

Get more information below about some of the major Medicare Advantage companies. These insurance companies offer plans in most states. The plans you can choose from will depend on your ZIP code and county.

Frequently asked questions

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is a bundled alternative to Original Medicare that includes Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), usually Part D (prescription drug benefits) and often additional benefits like coverage for some vision, dental and hearing care.

Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is available to anyone who is eligible for Original Medicare — and you must have signed up for Medicare Part A and Part B before enrolling. You must live in the geographic area served by a specific Medicare Part C plan, and you must be a U.S. citizen or lawfully living in the U.S.

Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, is an optional method of getting Medicare benefits — you aren’t required to sign up for it. There are penalties, however, if you miss your enrollment windows for other parts of Medicare.

The majority of Medicare Part C plans — also known as Medicare Advantage plans — have $0 monthly premiums. Including plans with no premium, the average monthly cost for a Medicare Advantage plan is about $18.

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