Supplement options if you're turning 65 and ready to enroll in Medicare

Private insurance companies sell Medicare supplements through local agents, direct marketers and online. There are ten standardized plans defined by letters A through N. Each plan provides core benefits and then expands to include extra coverages like skilled nursing care, Part A deductible, Part B deductible, Part B excess, foreign travel or the out-of-pocket annual limit. Decide which benefits are important to you; choose the corresponding letter plan; and start shopping. Prices vary by insurer, but benefits are identical for the selected plan. You pay the full cost of the supplement plan.

Medicare Advantage plans offer an alternative to Medicare and Medigap. Depending on where you live, the Medicare Advantage Plan may be a Health Maintenance Organization, Preferred Provider Organization, Private Fee-for-Service Plan, or Special Needs Plan. Medicare Advantage Plans may have provider restrictions and are not standardized. Confirm your doctors participate in the plan you are considering. Benefits may be reduced for unapproved, out-of-network providers. Medicare Advantage Plans may include coverage for prescription drugs, vision or other wellness care. Advantage plans often cost less than Medicare supplements.

Assess your health care needs and preferences. Learn more about Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage Plans. Get coverage and pricing information. Check the prospective insurer's complaint record, financial stability and licensing status. Armed with this information you'll be ready to buy the Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage Plan best suited to your unique situation.