How to Choose a Medicare Supplement Plan

Medicare supplement insurance, also known as Medigap coverage, covers medical expenses not covered by original Medicare through Part A hospital insurance, or Part B medical insurance. Individuals should start choosing a Medicare supplement insurance policy when they enter their guaranteed issue period, which extends six months after their 65th birthday. Some states begin the guaranteed issue period six months before a person’s 65th birthday

Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan Basics

Although Medicare supplement insurance is offered through private insurers, Medicare regulates the benefits that insurance companies are required to offer in each of the 12 Medicare supplement insurance plans, labeled Plan A through Plan L. Each of the lettered plans covers a different combination of expenses. All plans fully cover Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital expenses after the deductible, and Medicare Part B coinsurance for preventative services. In addition, the plans cover all or some of the following:

  • Part B coinsurance for non-preventative services
  • First 3 pints of blood
  • Coinsurance for a skilled nursing facility
  • Medicare deductibles for part A or part B coverage
  • Excess charges on Medicare Part B
  • Foreign travel emergencies with a separate deductible
  • Home recovery
  • Additional preventative care

Plan K and Plan L

These two plans cover only part of the covered additional expenses, with Plan K covering half and Plan L covering 75% of the specified services up to the specified out-of-pocket limits. Beyond the out-of-pocket limits, Plan K and Plan L both cover 100% of the specified expenses.

Plan F and Plan J

These two plans are catastrophic plans that are available with or without a high deductible. The high deductible option has lower premiums, but requires an insured person to pay $2,000 or more out of pocket before coverage begins.

Select a Plan

To choose a medicare supplement insurance policy, you’ll need to evaluate which benefits you anticipate needing. If you don’t travel outside the U.S., you may not need a plan that covers foreign travel emergencies. Select the plan that most closely fits the benefits you think you will need both now and in the future. While it is possible to switch between Medicare supplement plans, outside of the guaranteed issue period, insurance companies may decline coverage or charge higher premiums for pre-existing conditions.

Find Insurance Companies Offering that Plan

Insurance companies may not offer all 12 Medigap plans, and those that do may not offer every plan in all areas of the country. State departments of insurance can provide listings of the insurers approved to sell Medicare supplement insurance policies in your state, and allows you to search and compare plans online from carriers in your area. A trusted independent insurance agent can also help you find reliable companies that offer the coverage you want in your area. If you choose to work with an agent to choose Medicare supplement insurance, find out in advance which companies the agent is appointed with, since agents can’t offer policies from companies they aren’t appointed with, even if another company would be less expensive for you.

Compare Costs

Because every company provides the same benefits for each plan, you can make a direct apples-to-apples comparison of the costs across different insurance companies. Premiums can vary widely between companies, and outside the open enrollment period 6 months before and after a person’s 65th birthday, the companies can vary premiums for individuals based on their health. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommends calling each insurance company individually to get a quote on premiums based on your specific circumstances. An insurance agent can help research premiums, too.


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