(PRWEB) May 10, 2013
You probably know the basics about supplement insurance. For example, you’re probably aware that Medicare supplement insurance, or Medigap, plans help cover hospital and medical costs Medicare approves. And you may know that Medigap plans are private health insurance policies designed to fill the gaps in coverage left by Original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
But how do you go about choosing a Medicare supplement plan? The mere fact that ten different Medigap plans are available makes it obvious that no single plan is ideal for everyone. When choosing a plan, you have to examine the range of services you want covered, your medical history, the amount you’re willing – or not willing – to pay out of pocket, and your expectations going forward.
And then you’ve got to compare all the Medigap plans to find the one that best suits your needs and expectations.
The similarities …
All Medigap plans provide basic benefits that include:
- For hospitalization: Part A coinsurance plus coverage for one year after Medicare benefits end
- For hospice care: Part A coinsurance costs
- For medical expenses: Part B coinsurance, which is usually 20% of Medicare-approved costs, for hospital outpatient services
All Medigap plans also cover your first three pints of blood per year and Part B coinsurance charges for Medicare preventive care.
Enough about the similarities. There are ten different Medigap plans, remember, and once you know the characteristics all Medicare supplement plans share, it’s time for some serious comparison.
And the differences …
Plan A, by law, is offered by every company selling Medicare supplement plans. However, it provides the lowest level of benefits of any Medigap plan. Plan A won’t fill many of the gaps left by Medicare, and this is usually reflected in the cost of the plan.
Plan B offers basic benefits, but doesn’t cover skilled nursing care, Medicare Part B medical deductibles, medical costs incurred during foreign travel, or Medicare Part B excess. Part B excess refers to costs providers charge above the Medicare-approved amount. Overall, Plan B falls short of filling many of the gaps left by Medicare, and, as is the case with Medicare Supplement Plan A, this is reflected in the cost of the plan.
Plan C offers the basic standardized Medicare services along with several other benefits Plan A and Plan B don’t cover. Plan C, for example, pays the deductibles for both Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.
Plan D is designed to cover most of the high-risk gaps in Original Medicare, but it doesn’t cover Medicare Part B excess. Although Plan D has long been an affordable option in select markets, it leaves the insured responsible for medical bills exceeding the amount approved by Medicare.
Plan K covers a wide variety of services. It may be a good choice if you prefer lower premiums and are willing to share in the cost of medical services throughout the year. Though it requires you to pay a percentage of certain covered charges including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance, Plan K starts paying 100% for Medicare-covered services after out-of-pocket expenses reach the annual cap of $4,460.
Plan L is similar to Plan K, but has a lower out-of-pocket cap of $2,300. Plan L, like Plan K, usually has a relatively low monthly premium.
Plan M offers increased cost sharing and many benefits similar to those available through options such as Plan D. However, Plan M covers only half of the Part A deducible and none of the Part B deductible.
The Medigap plans widely thought to offer the best protection for your dollar are Plans F, G, and N.
Plan F is designed to cover all high-risk gaps left by Original Medicare. For Medicare-approved services, Plan F’s comprehensive coverage is designed to leave you with no out-of-pocket expenses.
Plan G has proven to be an excellent alternative to Plan F. Plan G’s benefits nearly equal Plan F’s, with the only exception being that Plan G doesn’t pay the Part B deductible. Plan G premiums are usually about 20% lower than premiums for Plan F.
Plan N covers your Part A deductible in full. Rather than paying Medicare Part B coinsurance charges, under Plan N you can expect copayments for doctor appointments and emergency room visits. In many states Plan N has no medical underwriting. If this is the case in your state, you won’t need to answer any questions about your medical history or prescription drug use when you apply.
Comparing what each plan has to offer you is a vital step in making the right choice. But if you think your need to compare plans ends there, think again.
True, the more you compare Medicare supplement plans, the more likely you are to get exactly the coverage you want. But you’ve got to be just as shrewd a shopper by comparing Medigap rates.
Comparing Medicare supplement plan rates doesn’t simply mean checking out how much it costs to be covered by Plan A, Plan D, Plan F, Plan M, or any of the other Medigap plans. Why not? Simply put, it’s because Medicare supplement insurance companies are generally free to apply their own pricing policies. While competing companies are required by law to provide the same coverage for the same Medigap letter plan, those companies can set their own rates for those same plans. This means half a dozen different companies offering the same Medicare supplement plan in your area are likely to charge half a dozen different rates for the same coverage. Those rates can vary widely, so if you don’t carefully weigh every option it can cost you a great deal of money. Not only that, if you cut corners and end up enrolling in the wrong plan, it may be harder than you think to switch to a plan you want later on.
Just because a company offers one plan at the lowest rate doesn’t mean it offers the best rates across the board. Once you’ve compared coverage options and selected the letter plan you want to investigate further, it’s time to find out what every company offering that plan in your area charges. And be sure to use up-to-date information in your comparisons because premiums can change from year to year. Don’t simply assume that a company is posting up-to-date information; make sure of it.
When you shop for a Medicare supplement plan, your best chance of satisfaction lies in knowing exactly what you want and how much you want to pay, and then shopping the market carefully. It’s vital to compare every option until you’re confident you’ve found the product that’s right – and that’s priced right – for you.
There are no shortcuts to finding the best Medigap policy. If you decide to cut corners you may get lucky … but you probably won’t. On the other hand, if you’re a shrewd shopper and take the time to compare what every plan and every company has to offer, your chance of getting the best plan at the best price is excellent.