Whether you’re approaching age 65 or have already reached this milestone, you may be eligible to purchase a Medicare Supplement insurance plan. And here’s some good news! For many people, turning 65 and enrolling in Medicare and a Medicare Supplement decreases their health care costs dramatically. Medicare Supplement plans are designed to cover some or all of the medical expenses that are not paid by Medicare Parts A and B. So in addition to lower premium costs, most people enjoy lower out of pocket expenses with these plans as well. And, with Medicare Supplement plans you won’t have to bother with referrals from your Primary Care Physician. With a Medicare Supplement plan you can choose to use any physician or provider throughout the U.S. that accepts Medicare patients.
Medicare is health insurance for people 65 and older, and those with certain disabilities or End-Stage Renal Disease. The program consists of several parts:
- Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital expenses, skilled nursing facilities, hospice and home health care
- Medicare Part B covers outpatient care, doctor services, home health care, some preventive care and durable medical equipment.
- Medicare Part C combines benefits from Parts A and B and usually includes prescription drug coverage under one policy. A Part C plan is also knows as a “Medicare Advantage” plan and is available only through a Medicare approved private insurance company.
- Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs and is only available through a Medicare approved private insurance company.
Medicare Supplement Plans
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) pays for many, but not all medical services. Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap”) plans “fill the gap” between what Medicare pays, and what you would have to pay, like deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. Some plans also offer coverage for things that Medicare doesn’t cover, like services needed when traveling outside of the U.S.
Medicare Supplement plans follow a standardized benefit schedule identified by letters A through N. All policies of a given type must offer the same basic benefits, but the plans can offer additional services. (Plans E, H, I and J are no longer available to purchase, but you can keep one of these plans if you already have one.)
Freedom to choose! That’s the advantage of a Medicare Supplement plan. Unlike the Part C or Medicare Advantage plans, Supplement plans allow you the freedom to use any doctor or hospital as long as they accept Medicare patients.
The most popular type of Medicare Supplement plan is a “Plan F” which covers your Medicare Part A and B deductibles, and covers the 20% coinsurance that Medicare doesn’t pay for most services. These plans also cover you while traveling abroad.
Part D Plans
As mentioned before, Part D plans cover prescription drugs and are available from private insurance plans. Benefits under Part D have improved since they were first introduced and now you can find plans with zero deductible, coverage in “the gap”, and predictable copays. The best way to shop for a Part D plan is to visit www.Medicare.gov and go through the Shop and Compare tool. It’s easy to use, and customized to your prescriptions and pharmacy. And, for most plans, you can enroll online.