Senior Resources » What’s the Difference Between Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage Plans?

What’s the Difference Between Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage Plans?

different plans

Hello Toni,


I want to tell you and the Toni Says team “Thank You” for teaching us the value of Medicare Part B and for helping enroll my husband Mike and me in Medicare the correct way when he retired at 70, a few months ago. Mike was determined to go with Medicare Advantage PPO plan because it had a $0 monthly premium and thought there was no difference between a Medicare Supplement and a PPO plan except cost.

 Last week Mike received a life-changing diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. Had we chosen the PPO route, then Mike and his medical team would not be in control of his care. Please let your readers know of our situation because your healthcare needs can change in a flash!


Thanks, Betsy, Spring, TX. 

Hi Betsy,

America needs to understand that there are differences between Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage PPO Plans other than premiums. They are completely different types of policies.

With a Medicare Supplement, there is not a network of any kind; you have the freedom to use any healthcare provider/facility that will bill Medicare. The Medicare Supplement will pay for your Medicare costs that Medicare Parts A and B do not pay.


With a Medicare Advantage PPO plan, there are lower costs for in-network providers/facilities as well as higher costs for out of network benefits. To view 2024, Medicare Advantage PPO plan out of pocket, visit your new 2024 Medicare & You handbook or search

Most people on a PPO plan never consider they could have to pay an out of network provider/facility for their medical claim, but in these current times many healthcare providers/facilities are out of network nationwide with a Medicare Advantage PPO plan. 

What’s the Difference Between Medicare Supplements and Medicare Advantage Plans?

question marks shrugging man

Medicare Supplement:

  1. Medicare Supplements work directly with “Original” Medicare. Medicare pays its share of the Medicare-approved amount for “medically necessary “covered healthcare costs. 
  2. The supplement will pay its share. You choosenot the insurance plan – which doctor, hospital, home health agency, skilled nursing facility, etc., so long as the provider accepts Medicare assignment for your healthcare. You and your healthcare providers are in control of your healthcare. 
  3. The downside to a supplement is that you have a monthly premium that may increase each year.
  4.  Medicare prescription (Part D) drugs plans are not included, so you may need to enroll and will pay separately for a “stand alone” Medicare (Part D) Prescription drug plan.

Medicare Advantage PPO Plan

  1. To qualify for any Medicare Advantage plan:  a) You must be enrolled in both Medicare Parts A & B. Must live in the service area 6 months out of the year.
  2. Medicare pays the insurance company a certain dollar amount every month for your care with the Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plan you are enrolled in. Your Part A and Part B must always remain in effect.
  3. When you go to the doctor, hospital or visit your pharmacist, you must only use your Medicare Advantage Plan insurance card, not your Medicare (red, white, and blue) card. You must verify that your specific medical provider is still accepting the MAPD plan you are enrolled in.
  4. A Medicare Advantage Plan must provide all your Part A and Part B benefits and some Medicare Advantage Plans have Part D prescription drug plans included. The plan may also have “extra” benefits such as gym membership, dental and vision.

Take your time during Medicare’s AEP to explore your Medicare options. Call the Toni Says Medicare hotline at (832) 519-8664 or email for assistance with Medicare issues. Toni’s books are available at with a bundle discount for Toni Says readers.

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Originally published October 05, 2023

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