If you have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you may have noticed that it doesn’t cover all of your health care expenses.
You still have to pay deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, and other fees that can add up quickly.
That’s why many people choose to buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, also known as Medigap.
A Medicare Supplement insurance plan is a type of private health insurance that helps pay for some of the costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover.
There are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans available in most states, each with a letter assigned to it.
The plans offer different levels of coverage, but they all have one thing in common: they include a Medicare Supplement basic benefit.
Medicare Supplement basic benefit
A Medicare Supplement basic benefit is the minimum amount of coverage that every Medicare Supplement plan must provide. It covers the following costs:
- Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up
- Part B coinsurance or copayment
- Blood (first 3 pints)
- Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment
These are the core benefits that every Medicare Supplement plan offers, regardless of the letter. However, some plans offer additional benefits, such as coverage for:
- Part A deductible
- Part B deductible
- Part B excess charges
- Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
- Foreign travel emergency (up to plan limits)
The more benefits a plan offers, the higher the premium may be. However, the premium also depends on other factors, such as your age, location, health status, and the insurance company you choose. Therefore, it is important to compare different plans and prices before you buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan.
How to Choose a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan
Choosing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan can be confusing, especially with so many options available. However, there are some steps you can take to make the process easier and find the best plan for your needs and budget. Here are some tips to help you choose a Medicare Supplement insurance plan:
- Know your eligibility. You can buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan if you have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and you are 65 or older. You can also buy a plan if you are under 65 and have a disability or certain health conditions, depending on your state. You can buy a plan during your 6-month Medigap Open Enrollment Period, which starts the month you turn 65 and enroll in Part B. During this period, you can buy any plan available in your state without medical underwriting or higher premiums. You can also buy a plan after this period, but you may have to pay more or be denied coverage based on your health.
- Know your options. You can choose from 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans, labeled A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N. Each plan offers a different combination of benefits, but they all include the Medicare Supplement basic benefit. You can compare the benefits of each plan using this chart. You can also use this tool to find out which plans are available in your area and how much they cost.
- Know your needs. You should consider your current and future health care needs and expenses when choosing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. Think about how often you use health care services, how much you spend on deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, and other fees, and how likely you are to need more or less coverage in the future. You should also consider your travel plans, as some plans offer coverage for foreign travel emergencies. You should choose a plan that covers the benefits that are most important to you, and that fits your budget and lifestyle.
- Know your sources. You should do your research before you buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. You can get information and assistance from various sources, such as:
- Medicare.gov, the official website of Medicare, where you can find general information about Medicare Supplement insurance plans, compare plans and prices, and enroll in a plan online.
- 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), the toll-free number of Medicare, where you can speak to a representative who can answer your questions and help you enroll in a plan over the phone.
- State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), a free counseling service that can help you understand your Medicare options and rights, compare plans and prices, and apply for financial assistance. You can find your local SHIP by visiting this website or calling 1-877-839-2675.
- Insurance agents or brokers, who can help you find and buy a Medicare Supplement insurance plan from a private insurance company. However, you should be careful and make sure that the agent or broker is licensed and reputable, and that they represent multiple insurance companies and not just one. You should also compare their offers with other sources and avoid any pressure or misleading tactics.
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A Medicare Supplement basic benefit is the minimum amount of coverage that every Medicare Supplement insurance plan must provide.
It helps pay for some of the out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as coinsurance, copayments, and blood.
However, some plans offer additional benefits, such as coverage for deductibles, excess charges, skilled nursing facility care, and foreign travel emergency.
Choosing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan can be challenging, but you can make it easier by knowing your eligibility, options, needs, and sources.
A Medicare Supplement insurance plan can help you lower your out-of-pocket costs and enjoy more peace of mind.
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