What is Medicare Advantage?

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is provided by companies with a Medicare contract, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. Medicare Advantage plans provide all of the benefits from Medicare Part A and Part B combined. And, our Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage plus extra benefits and lower copayments. The comprehensive coverage of a Medicare Advantage plan often includes additional services, such as vision, hearing and dental care.

Blue Advantage plans from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama are Medicare Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans. These PPO plans include the largest network in the state with comprehensive benefits to fit your needs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage in Alabama, so having an additional prescription drug plan (PDP) or an additional Medicare Supplement plan is not necessary.


How is Medicare Advantage different from Original Medicare?

Medicare Part C and Part D are important options that can help you pay some of the out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans conveniently provide Medicare Part A (hospital), Medicare Part B (medical) and Medicare Part D (prescription drug) coverage. While Original Medicare does not include preventive services, such as vision, hearing and dental care, these additional benefits are typically included in a Medicare Advantage plan, providing comprehensive coverage in a simple, effective plan. 


All of our Medicare Advantage plans include:

  • myBlueCross – 24-hour online access to your personal health information, easy-to-use online tools and a mobile app for access on the go
  • Extensive provider network – 98% of hospitals in Alabama, plus doctors and specialists in every county
  • Nationwide network of pharmacies – coverage for a wide range of Medicare-approved drugs at more than 63,000 pharmacies
  • No-cost preventive services – preventive screenings and immunizations covered at no cost to you
  • Medication Therapy Management – access to expert advice to help you safely manage your medications
  • Disease Management Program – nurses available to help you manage a variety of chronic conditions through early intervention, appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes
  • 24-hour Nurse Hotline – specially trained nurses standing by to answer your questions, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • SilverSneakers Fitness Program* – a fun and innovative health, exercise, and wellness program designed specifically for Medicare-eligible adults to help you get fit while making new friends and enjoying a healthy lifestyle
  • Air Medical Services** – air ambulance transport if you are hospitalized more than 150 miles from home to get you to a hospital near your home


Who can sign up for Medicare Advantage?

You are eligible to sign up for Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) if you are age 65 or older or meet certain disability requirements. You must meet the same criteria as for Original Medicare, as well as the following:

  • You must have Medicare Part A and Part B; and
  • You must live in Alabama; and
  • You do not have End Stage Renal Disease

Based on your income, you may qualify for financial assistance from Medicare to help lower your monthly premium. If you qualify, you will also have no drug coverage gap and lower out-of-pocket costs.

Your monthly premium may vary based on the services, coverage, deductible, copayments and additional benefits you choose.

You may not be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and a Medicare Supplement at the same time.


When can I apply for Medicare Advantage plans?

There are four enrollment periods during which you may choose a Medicare Advantage plan.

Initial Enrollment Period: If you are new to Medicare, you should enroll during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). This period includes the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and the three months after you turn 65. If you are eligible at varying times for Medicare Part A and Part B, you may use the later of the two dates to select your Medicare Advantage plan.  

If you are already enrolled in Medicare Part A coverage and newly enrolled in Medicare Part B during the General Enrollment Period (January 1–March 31), you may sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan between April 1–June 30 of the same year.

Annual Election Period: Except under special circumstances, you may only choose or change your Part C plan each fall during the Annual Election Period. Each year from October 15 to December 7, after you are enrolled in Medicare coverage, you may sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. The choices you make during the Annual Election Period will take effect on January 1 of the upcoming year.

Special Election Period: If you experience a loss of health insurance coverage that was previously covered by your job or union health insurance, you may qualify for a Medicare special election period. You may join a Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan under certain circumstances, including:

  • If you move to a community not served by your current plan
  • Entering a nursing home
  • If you are on both Medicare and Medicaid
  • If your current plan is terminated

This eligibility period will be determined based on the date you lost coverage.

If you are ready and are within an eligible enrollment period, use our tool to compare and apply for Medicare Advantage in Alabama.



* The SilverSneakers Fitness Program is provided by Healthways, Inc., an independent company.

** Air medical transport services are provided through a contract with AirMed International, LLC. AirMed International, LLC is an independent company that does not provide Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama products. Blue Cross is not responsible for any mistakes, errors or omissions that AirMed, its employees or staff members make. Air medical services terminate if coverage by your health plan ends.