Medicare beneficiaries are signing up for top-rated Medicare Advantage plans now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) encourages the industry to offer high-quality benefits to seniors. According to Forbes, more than half of the nation’s seniors are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans with a rate of four stars on a five-star scale.

The source stated that the plans are rated using measures such as reduced call waiting times and how well they encourage beneficiaries to turn to preventive care services. The ranking system was created under the ACA to help seniors find cost-effective and high-quality benefits. It also helps insurance companies to provide better benefits to Medicare recipients. Companies that have five-star ratings are permitted to market their plans year-round rather than just during Medicare’s fall open enrollment period – October 15 through December 7.

Plans with four and five stars are issued a bonus payment. According to Forbes, for 2013, 53 percent of Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries are enrolled in plans with at least four stars compared to only 24 percent in 2011.

“The Affordable Care Act helps strengthen Medicare Advantage by providing improved benefits and keeping costs low for Medicare beneficiaries,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement to Forbes. “We believe that plans will continue their strong participation in the Medicare Advantage program in 2015 and beneficiaries will continue to have a wide array of high quality, high value, low cost options available to them while at the same time we are making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers.”

What to know about Medicare Advantage
A Medicare Advantage plan is offered through a private company contracting with Medicare. These plans offer all Part A and B benefits including Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), Private Fee-for-Service plans, Special Needs Plans and Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans.

Individuals can join a Medicare Advantage plan during yearly enrollment periods and when you first become eligible for Medicare.

When you choose to sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan you’re still in the Medicare Program. Those with a pre-existing condition are eligible to join for Medicare Advantage Plan, except those with end-stage renal disease.

There’s a yearly limit on our-of-pocket costs for Medicare Advantage Plans. These vary based on your coverage but once you reach the limit you won’t be required to pay anything for covered services. Plans also can’t charge more than Original Medicare for services such as dialysis, skilled nursing facility care and chemotherapy.