The roots of Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) go back to the 1970s. At that time, beneficiaries could receive managed care through private insurance companies. It was not until 1997 that the program, then called “Medicare Choice,” became official with the passing of the Balanced Budget Act.
In 2003, Medicare Part D was created and Medicare Choice plans were renamed to Medicare Advantage plans. Prior to 2003, Medicare did not offer coverage on prescription medications. This new addition allowed beneficiaries to get their health and prescription coverage through a single plan using one ID card.
Unlike Original Medicare, which is government insurance, Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies. These plans cover the same benefits of Original Medicare and typically include extra coverage such as out-of-pocket maximums, minimal dental or hearing coverage, and fitness benefits. Most Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage.
The Medicare Advantage program looks very different today than it did in 2003. Like any new program, it went through changes and growing pains. But over the years, we began to see increasing stability in Medicare Advantage. According the Kaiser Foundation, there were 17.6 million Americans enrolled on Medicare Advantage plans.