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5 surprising ways your Medicare Advantage plan helps you stay healthy

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Learn how your health plan and your Optum care team make a winning combination.

Right before your 65th birthday, you had some health care choices. You could’ve gone with Original Medicare, a government-run health program for people ages 65 and older. (It also covers some people with end-stage renal disease and certain disabilities). 

You could’ve also chosen a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. That follows the same rules as Medicare and can be bought through a private insurer. 

You may have picked an MA plan for the extra perks and convenience. Some MA plans “bundle” health care benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, prescriptions and more. You can get some or all of those benefits in one easy-to-manage plan.1 

Since MA follows the same rules as Medicare, you also have access to a network of doctors and specialists. In other words, the providers that make up your care team. 

Just how does that access, plus your MA plan, help you to stay healthy? Let’s look at five ways your MA plan and Optum care team work together for you. 

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Our primary care providers, specialists and care teams are here to help you reach your health goals.

1. Coverage for prescription drugs 

You might take prescription medication, which is an important way to manage your health. In fact, more than 80% of older Americans take at least one prescription drug.2  

Unfortunately, millions of older adults struggle to pay for medication. Some don’t take prescribed medication due to the cost.3 That makes it important to have an insurance plan that covers medication.  

Your MA plan usually includes drug coverage.1 This is bundled with your other health care services. (With Original Medicare, people have to pay extra for a stand-alone drug plan.) 

Your drug plan means you have coverage for a wide range of generic and brand-name medications. That includes most of the drugs that treat certain “protected” categories, such as cancer.4 And if you need insulin for type 2 diabetes, you’ll pay no more than $35 for a 1-month supply.4  

Some MA plans may even provide coverage for over-the-counter medication that Original Medicare doesn’t cover.1 It’s a good idea to check your plan’s details to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these benefits. 

2. Special care for your eyes, ears and teeth 

Many MA plans may include extra benefits such as vision, hearing and dental.1 These are benefits you normally won’t find with Original Medicare. 

The details of coverage vary from one MA plan to another, but you may have access to routine exams and procedures. You might also get discounts on glasses, contacts and hearing aids.  

Caring for your eyes, ears and mouth are important for your overall health and quality of life. For instance, research shows that poor vision, hearing loss and poor oral health are all associated with cognitive decline.5, 6, 7  

And there are many other not-so-obvious reasons these benefits matter. A few examples: 

  • Your dentist could spot the signs of diseases like diabetes in a dental exam.
  • Your eye doctor could notice vision problems related to diabetes during an eye exam.9 
  • Getting (and wearing) hearing aids could possibly cut your fall risk.10 

3. Fitness perks 

Some MA plans may include access to gyms and fitness classes.1 This is important because exercise is a big part of healthy aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults ages 65 and older should aim for:11 

  • At least 150 minutes of cardio every week (about 30 minutes, 5 times a week) 
  • Two or more weekly workouts that involve muscle training (such as lifting weights) 
  • Regular balance training (such as standing on one foot)  

Taking advantage of your fitness benefits could help you avoid more serious health problems, such as falls, in the future.  

Looking for a new provider or specialist? Our providers offer you personalized care to help you reach your health goals. Find an Optum doctor.

4. In-home care 

Some MA plans offer you the ability to see providers in the comfort of your own home. This can help you receive routine care without having to drive (or get a ride) to a doctor’s office.  

For older adults who require regular assistance, the benefits may even allow them to avoid going to a nursing facility.  

Examples of in-home services include:12 

  • Adult day health services 
  • Assistance with eating and dressing 
  • Food assistance 
  • Home-based palliative care 
  • Support for caregivers (such as respite care) 
  • Therapeutic massage 

In addition, many MA plans offer expanded access to telehealth services that let you connect with your provider over the phone or via video chat.13 And some offer free rides to medical appointments. 

You’ll need to check your plan to see which of these services are available to you. Many of them are less common than better-known benefits such as vision and dental. For example, a government study found that 98% of MA plans offer vision coverage, but only 17% cover in-home support services.12 

5. Medicare Advantage + Optum  

Optum specializes in the health of people ages 65 and older. And you have access to 60,000 doctors in 2,000 locations in the Optum network. Plus, you get: 

  • A personalized care team: Your primary care doctor, specialists and support staff work together to coordinate your care.  
  • A care plan just for you: Your doctor will help you develop personalized health goals, and you’ll get regular coaching to stay on track.  
  • Programs to manage long-term health issues: You’ll get extra support if you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  
  • Help every step of the way: If you need to see a specialist or have questions about your medications, your primary care doctor will make sure you get the care and the answers you need.  

Care in action: A success story

So how does all this add up? A Las Vegas resident named Laurie, age 67, found out a few years ago.  

Laurie had been having health problems. She suffered from depression, high blood pressure and sleep issues. Her weight was 345 pounds. She was in so much pain she couldn’t make it to her grandson’s baseball games. 

But Laurie was in luck, because her neighbor, Neil Gokal, MD, was an Optum doctor. He practices family medicine in Las Vegas.  

Laurie wanted to work with Dr. Gokal, so she found an MA plan that allowed her to become his patient. From there, she was able to receive the kind of personalized attention that Optum is known for.  

“Personalized care is being able to know somebody,” says Dr. Gokal. “Knowing their ‘walk’ in life and everything that impacts all of their health care and their challenges.” 

With Dr. Gokal’s help, Laurie started a treatment plan to get back to the life she once enjoyed. Today, she’s a new person. She’s pain-free and eating healthy foods again, and she’s been able to cut back on her medicines. She now has the energy and stamina to do the things she loves, like watching her grandson’s baseball games. 

“Dr. Gokal is probably the best doctor I have ever met,” Laurie says. “And I have the best Medicare Advantage plan that anybody could ever have.” 

“It fills my cup to hear that from a patient,” Dr. Gokal says. “To see someone who is able to do what they want to do. To see a person truly live a great, healthy, active life. All because of the changes we were able to make together.” (Check out this video to see more of Laurie’s story.) 
That’s the level of care that every Optum doctor aims to provide. We’re here to listen to your concerns and help you reach your health goals. 


  1. Medicare.gov. Medicare Advantage plans cover all Medicare services. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  2. National Institute on Aging. The dangers of polypharmacy and the case for deprescribing in older adults. Published August 24, 2021. Accessed December 20, 2023.  
  3. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Prescription drug affordability among Medicare beneficiaries. Published January 20, 2022. Accessed December 15, 2023.  
  4. Medicare.gov. What Medicare Part D drug plans cover. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  5. BMJ Open. Vision impairment and cognitive decline among older adults: a systematic review. Published January 6, 2022. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  6. American Heart Association. Poor oral health may contribute to declines in brain health. Published February 2, 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  7. National Institutes of Health. Hearing aids slow cognitive decline in people at high risk. Published August 8, 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023.   
  8. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Dry mouth. Last reviewed November 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023.   
  9. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Diabetes eye exams. Last reviewed August 12, 2022. Accessed December 20, 2023.  
  10. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Consistent hearing aid use is associated with lower fall prevalence and risk in older adults with hearing loss. Published October 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023.  
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do older adults need? Last reviewed April 13, 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  12. United States Government Accountability Office. Plans generally offered some supplemental benefits, but CMS has limited data on utilization. Published January 2023. Accessed December 20, 2023. 
  13. Medicare.gov. Telehealth. Accessed December 20, 2023.

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