Medigap policies, which are sold by private health insurers, come in 12 standardized benefit packages, labeled “A” through “L.” The coverage and price generally increase as you move through the alphabet from the basic Plan A through the more comprehensive Plan J. Plans K and L are high-deductible policies that carry lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs. The most popular choice is Plan F, which strikes a good balance between costs (averaging around $160 per month) and coverage. (Note: If you live in Massachusetts, Minnesota or Wisconsin you have a different set of Medigap plans.)
How to choose:
To choose a Medigap policy, consider your health status and family medical history. The differences among plans can be small and rather confusing, so you’ll need to do some homework to pick the right plan. To help you get started, you can compare quotes from multiple carriers in your area at by running an instant medicare supplement quote.
Since all Medigap policies with the same letter cover the exact same benefits, most people simply shop for the cheapest policy. You can get the best price if you sign up within six months after enrolling in Medicare Part B. During this open-enrollment period, an insurer cannot refuse to sell you a policy or charge you more because of medical issues.
You also need to be aware of the three company pricing methods that will affect your costs. Medigap policies are usually sold as either “attained-age” policies, which are premiums that start low but rise every year as you get older, as “issue-age” policies, which only increase prices because of inflation, not because of your age (these policies may start out a little more expensive than attained-age policies but may save you money in the long run), and as “community-rate” policies, which are where everyone in an area is charged the same premium regardless of age.
No drug coverage
Medicare Supplement plans no longer cover prescription drugs. If you don’t have drug coverage you need to consider buying a separate Medicare Part D drug plan too. You can compare drug plans and cost at Medicare.gov/mpdpf.
Also note that standard Medigap plans do not cover vision or dental care, hearing aids or private-duty nursing.
Another option to consider is a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead of paying separately for Medicare Part B, plus a Medigap supplemental policy and a Part D drug plan, you could sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that provides all-in-one coverage. These plans, which are sold by insurance companies, are generally available through HMOs and PPOs. To find and compare Advantage plans visit http://www.medigapadvisors.com/medicare-advantage-plans.htm .
Help for the low-income
If you have limited income, there are a variety of programs that may be able to help you cut or eliminate your health care costs, such as Medicare Savings Programs, Medicaid and prescription drug assistance. To find out if you qualify, visit Medicare.org.
For assistance in finding the best Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plan for your situation, contact Medigap Advisors at 866-323-1441.
Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage. For more information visit www.MediGapAdvisors.com.