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Medicare Supplement vs. Medicare Advantage: What’s the Difference?

Applying for Medicare once you reach retirement age sounds simple enough. But just because you’re covered under the federal health insurance program doesn’t mean you won’t be faced with out-of-pocket costs.

With Original Medicare (Parts A and B), you’ll receive coverage for health-related expenses like hospital care, doctor visits, medical procedures and equipment. Like a traditional health insurance policy, Medicare pays its share of the Medicare-approved amount, and you’re responsible for a portion. That typically includes out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

But for many seniors – especially those on a fixed income – the risk of having unforeseen health care costs in retirement can be stressful. Luckily, you have options available to help set your mind at ease.

In today’s insurance market, there are two primary choices to help protect Medicare recipients against out-of-pocket medical expenses: Medicare Supplement insurance and Medicare Advantage plans. But how do you decide which plan is right for you?

Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the difference:

What’s a Medicare Supplement Plan?

Sometimes called “Medigap,” a Medicare Supplement plan is a private insurance policy that helps you pay for what Medicare doesn’t cover. You can apply for a policy when you sign up for Medicare Parts A and B. Available plans will vary depending on the state you live in.

In addition to helping you cover unexpected expenses, Medicare Supplement plans offer some additional benefits, including the ability to choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Original Medicare.

What’s a Medicare Advantage Plan?

A Medicare Advantage plan, sometimes called “Part C,” is another option to help cover medical costs for seniors. But unlike a Medicare Supplement plan, which functions like an insurance policy in addition to Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans are more like a private form of health insurance you buy in place of Medicare. In most cases, these plans cover everything provided by Medicare Parts A, B, and D, while offering some additional services.

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by a range of private companies, including:

  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Preferred provider organizations
  • Private fee-for-service plans
  • Special needs plans
  • Medicare medical savings account plans

It’s important to note that while Medicare Advantage plans generally have lower premiums, they still have out-of-pocket costs like copayments and deductibles. And because they’re like a health insurance plan, you could potentially be tied to a certain provider network and need referrals to see a specialist.

Let ERIE Help You Choose

When it comes to reviewing and choosing options for Medicare coverage, the decisions can be daunting. But you don’t need to be an expert because we’re here to help. Contact your Erie Insurance agent or find an agent in your neighborhood.

Erie Family Life and our agents can help you determine the best option for you and your family. And we offer a range of Medicare Supplement plans to fit your life and your budget. Best of all, we’ll always be here when you need us, ready to answer your questions. That’s our promise of service.

ERIE® Medicare Supplement insurance products and services are provided by Erie Family Life Insurance Company.  Go to for company licensure information.

The policy has exclusions, limitations and terms under which the policy may be continued in force or discontinued. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your ERIE agent or refer to the government guide Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People With Medicare. In Wisconsin you will receive "The Guide to Health Insurance for People in Wisconsin."

Eligibility for insurance coverage will be determined at the time of application based on applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

ERIE Medicare Supplement insurance is not available in the District of Columbia and New York.  Life insurance not available in New York.

Medicare Supplement policy forms for Tennessee: EFLMS3003 9/17 (A) TN; EFLMS3009 9/17 (F) TN; EFLMS3014 9/17 (G) TN; EFLMS3019 9/17 (N) TN.

Maryland: Medicare Supplement policies are available to disabled individuals under the age of 65.

Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the Federal Medicare program. This is a solicitation of insurance.  An agent (or the company) may contact you.

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ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.