Medicare Advantage is part of Medicare, but Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage are different in terms of how provider choice, cost, and coverage work.

Below we compare Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage to show the major differences between the two Medicare types.

FACT: Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to Original Medicare which “bundles” Part A, Part B, and usually Part D.

Original Medicare Vs. Medicare Advantage Comparison

The table below compares Medicare and Medicare Advantage in terms of provider choice, cost, coverage, and travel.

Provider Choice

In general provider choice is greater with Original Medicare, Advantage keeps costs down by using networks.

Original Medicare Medicare Advantage
You can go to any doctor in the U.S. that takes Medicare. In most cases, you’ll need to use doctors in your plan’s network for non-emergency situations.
You typically don’t need a referral. You may need a referral to see a specialist, even for covered services.

Cost

Medicare Advantage generally offers better cost-sharing for a higher premium. However, some Advantage plans are actually designed to reduce your Part B premium costs.

Original Medicare Medicare Advantage
You typically pay 20% for all Part B covered services. Cost-sharing differs by plan.
You pay a set monthly premium for Part B. Your plan will have a premium in addition to the Part B premium (although some Advantage plans may pay part or all of your Part B premium).
There is no annual limit to what you pay out of pocket. Plans have annual limits for out-of-pocket costs on Part A and Part B services.
You can pair Original Medicare with Medigap or qualifying employer coverage. You can’t pair Medicare Advantage with Medigap.

Coverage

Medicare Advantage must offer at least what Medicare does, but Advantage can offer more benefits.

Original Medicare Medicare Advantage
Most medically necessary services and supplies are covered. Everything Original Medicare covers must be covered, but additional benefits may be covered as well.
You can join a Part D plan to get additional drug coverage. Many, but not all, Advantage plans include drug coverage.
Most services and supplies don’t need pre-authorization. In some cases, covered services and supplies need pre-authorization from Medicare.

Travel

Neither Original Medicare nor Medicare Advantage covers travel. If you travel outside of the U.S., consider Medigap.

Original Medicare Medicare Advantage
Original Medicare generally doesn’t cover care outside of the U.S. Advantage plans typically don’t cover travel outside the U.S.

TIP: Medigap plans may cover travel outside the U.S., Medigap isn’t part of Medicare, but it can help fill in the gaps.