Traditional Medicare vs Advantage Plans

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During this time of year, patients are often deciding on their health insurance for the upcoming year. We get lots of questions about the difference between Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Here are some of the differences between the two. The differences in regards to physical and occupational therapy are listed at the bottom.


Traditional Medicare: Allows you to see any doctor or specialist that accepts Medicare.

Advantage Plan: Typically has a network of preferred providers, limiting your choices.

Network Restrictions

Traditional: Nationwide coverage with no need for referrals to see specialists.

Advantage Plan: May have regional limitations and often requires referrals to see specialists.


Traditional: Standardized coverage, making it easier to understand. Coverage remains consistent regardless of where you live.

Advantage Plan: Coverage can vary and plan structures may change annually, impacting benefits and costs.

Prior Authorization

Traditional: Generally, no prior authorization is needed for medical services.

Advantage Plan: Often requires prior authorization for services.

Supplemental Coverage Options

Traditional: You are given the option to purchase supplemental Medigap insurance for added coverage.

Advantage Plan: Limited options for supplemental coverage.


Traditional: Provides consistent coverage across states and regions. You can be seen anywhere that accepts Medicare within the United States.

Advantage Plan: Coverage may change when moving to a different service area.

Primary Care Physician

Traditional: You are not required to choose a primary care physician.

Advantage Plan: Often requires you to choose a primary care physician. Your PCP will have to send referrals for specialty services.


Traditional: Your out-of-pocket costs are typically more predictable.

Advantage Plan: Your out-of-pocket costs can vary, and unexpected expenses may arise.

Physical & Occupational Therapy

Traditional: You will not owe a copay for therapy services and prior authorization is not required. Referrals are required.

Advantage Plan: You will most likely owe a copay for therapy services (usually $40-$50 per visit), and prior authorization is usually required. Referrals are required.

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