Medicare Advantage, also called Medicare Part C, is offered by private insurance companies for qualifying individuals who want more than original Medicare coverage.

Many Advantage plans also cover additional medical needs, such as:

If you’ve been recently shopping around for a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have noticed that some of these plans are advertised as “free.” Certain Advantage plans are called free because they offer a $0 monthly premium to be enrolled in the plan. This makes them an attractive offer for those looking to save money on monthly Medicare costs.

This article will explore what these free Medicare Advantage plans cover, what additional costs you might encounter, and who’s eligible for a free Medicare Part C plan.

Free Medicare Advantage plans are Medicare Part C plans that offer a $0 yearly premium. Compared to other Medicare plans, these zero premium Medicare Advantage plans don’t charge a yearly amount to be enrolled in the plan. There’s generally no difference in coverage between a free plan and a paid plan. Regardless of cost, most Medicare Part C plans offer parts A and B, prescription drug, and other additional coverage.

So, why do companies offer these zero premium Medicare plans? When a company contracts with Medicare, it’s given a set amount of money to cover parts A and B insurance. If the company can save money elsewhere, such as by using in-network providers, it may be able to pass those extra savings along to members. This can result in a free monthly premium. These free Medicare Advantage plans are also a great way for companies to advertise attractive savings to potential beneficiaries.

Even though zero premium Medicare Advantage plans are marketed as free, you’ll still have to pay some out-of-pocket costs for coverage, such as:

  • Medicare Advantage plan monthly premium. If a Medicare Advantage plan is free, you won’t have to pay a monthly premium to be enrolled.
  • Part B monthly premium. Most free Medicare Advantage plans still charge a separate monthly Part B premium. Some plans will cover this fee, but others may not. The Part B monthly premium is $148.50 per month for most people.
  • Deductibles. There are two types of yearly deductibles associated with most Medicare Advantage plans. The plan itself may have a yearly deductible, which is the out-of-pocket amount you pay before your insurance pays out. The plan may also charge you a drug deductible as well.
  • Coinsurance/copayments. Most Medicare Advantage plans charge copayments. A copayment is the out-of-pocket fee you pay every time you receive medical services. Some plans may also charge a coinsurance, which is the percentage of all medical costs you’re responsible for paying.

Medicare Advantage plans can also differ in costs based on their structures. For example, PPO plans charge different copayment amounts based on whether your provider is in network or out of network. These costs may even vary from year to year. For example, PFFS plans have experienced a small percentage increase in costs every year for the last few years.

There are no qualifications for free Medicare Advantage plans. Many Advantage plans offer a free monthly premium as part of their healthcare plan offerings. When searching for a Medicare Advantage plan, you can usually sort your options by “Lowest monthly premium” to see zero premium Medicare Advantage plans in your area.

Another way to keep track of your Medicare Advantage costs is to pay attention to the evidence of coverage and annual notice of change notices your plan sends you each year. This will help you stay on top of any price changes or fee increases.

resources to help cover medicare costs

One of the most important ways to manage your Medicare costs is to use the resources available to help cover or lower your costs. These resources include:

  • Medicaid. This program has helped cover medical costs for more than 10 million people who are low income or don’t have the resources to pay for medical expenses.
  • Medicare Savings Programs. These programs can help low-income beneficiaries pay Medicare Advantage premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
  • Supplemental Social Security. This benefit offers people who are disabled, blind, or over 65 a monthly payment, which can help cover Medicare costs.
  • Additional resources. There are other programs that may offer help for people who live in certain U.S. territories or have high prescription drug costs.
  • Free Medicare Advantage plans are private Medicare insurance plans that offer a $0 monthly premium.
  • While these plans are advertised as free, you’ll still have to pay the standard out-of-pocket costs for other premiums, deductibles, and copayments.
  • If you qualify for Medicare and are enrolled in parts A and B, you can search for zero premium Medicare Advantage plans in your area.