Ultimate Guide to Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans in 2021
Medicare Supplement plans are often referred to as Medigap plans because they help close the payment gap between what you need to pay and your current coverage provides.
Unlike Medicare Advantage Part C and Part D prescription drug plans, Medicare supplement plans only enhance what is covered in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). These policies do not give added coverage for Part C and Part D policies.
Depending on the supplement plan you choose, you can get additional help paying for your out-of-pocket deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
The US government’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers the federal Medicare program and contracts with private insurers who provide a variety of plans to meet beneficiaries’ different needs.
You can use this guide to learn more about Medicare supplement plans in your area. If you’re more interested in seeing what’s available to you, go to our Medigap Plan Finder tool and start comparing available policies.
An Overview of Medicare Supplement Plans
There are ten different types of Medigap plans, identified by letters A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N.
Make sure you do not confuse Medicare Part A, B, C, or D (hospital coverage) with Medigap Supplement using the same letters. They are completely different.
Each letter represents different coverage levels and costs. It’s critical to understand that each plan will be the exact same coverage from state to state.
For example, this means Plan B in Utah will be exactly the same as Plan B in South Carolina, Texas, or Illinois. This is true for all lettered types of policies. The only exceptions are in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Some policies will cover things that Original Medicare does not cover, such as coverage for when you travel internationally.
Before you can buy a Medigap policy, you must have Medicare Part A and Part B in force.
Medigap policies only cover one person. If both you and your spouse want Medigap coverage, you’ll both need to buy policies. You can buy a policy from any insurers licensed in your state to sell Medigap insurance.
Medigap policies are also guaranteed renewable, meaning you can’t be turned down for renewal even if you have health issues.
You are not allowed to buy a Medigap policy if you already have a Medicare Advantage Part C policy. You can buy a Medigap policy if you’re dropping Part C coverage and switching back to Original Medicare.
Comparing Medicare Supplement Plans
Because each plan must provide the same benefits, no matter which insurer you choose, one of the ways people often compare policies is by price.
However, don’t assume that the lowest priced policy is the best way to go.
That’s because carriers use different methods to determine to price for their plans. There are three ways this is done:
- Community-rated: Everybody pays the same rate each month per location regardless of their age.
- Issue-age-rated: You pay a premium based on the age you are when you sign up for the plan. The younger you are, the less you pay. Premiums may increase each year based on inflation, but they will increase as you age.
- Attained-age-rated: Your premium is based on your age at the time you enroll, and it increases every year based on your age and inflation.
What about additional health benefits?
Every carrier must offer the same baseline coverage, but some Medigap plans also add a few additional benefits to attract more beneficiaries.
While enhanced benefits are more like to be found with a Medicare Advantage plan, a Medigap plan may offer things like international travel coverage or physical fitness benefits through programs like SilverSneakers and Silver & Fit.
The only downside is that there may be a higher premium if you also want to take advantage of these benefits.
Use a Medigap Plan Finder Tool to compare Medicare Supplement plans near you
Our Medigap Plan finder tool lets you see the best Medicare Supplement plans side by side for all Medigap policies offered in your state and county. As each plan letter offers the same exact benefits regardless of your location, all you will need to do is decide on which plan letter best fits your needs.
Medicare also has a finder tool that you can use as well.
Comparing Medicare Supplement plans
Check out our Medicare Supplement plans comparison chart to help you better understand options that work best for you. Keep in mind that costs will vary between plans and zip codes, but this is a good start to help give you an overall understanding.
For more detailed descriptions about what each lettered plan covers, follow the links below to get more information
A quick overview of different plan coverages
Medicare Supplement plans A through D
Plans A, B, C, and D have a lot of similarities. All four options cover Part A coinsurance and hospital costs, Part A and B coinsurance and copayments, and the first three pints of blood for medical procedures. None of the plans have an out-of-pocket maximum.
They differ in the following ways:
- Plans A and Plan Bdo not cover skilled nursing facility coinsurance, but Plans C and D do.
- Plan A does not cover the Part A deductible, but Plans B, C, and D do
- Plan C is the only plan of the four that will cover the Part B deductible, but Plan D is the only one that will cover Part B excess charges.
- Plans A and B do not cover foreign emergency travel, but Plans C and D will cover up to 80% of foreign emergency travel.
As of January 1, 2020, Plan C is no longer offered to new beneficiaries.
Medicare Plans C and Plan F are no longer offered to new beneficiaries
As of January 1, 2020, Plan C and Plan F have been discontinued.
This is because both Plans C and F cover the Part B deductible, and Congress discovered that they were too inclusive and encouraged people to visit the doctor too often because coverage was essentially free.
Those visits were deemed wasteful and costing doctors and the government a lot of money for unnecessary doctor visits.
Going forward, people will have to meet the Part B deductible first.
However, if you already have a Plan C or Plan F in place prior to January 1, then you won’t lose your plan coverage, but you may end up paying a higher premium.
What is the difference between Plan F and Plan G?
Plan F and Plan G are two of the more popular Medigap plans.
Both plans cover the Part A deductible, coinsurance, and hospice/hospital costs, Part B coinsurance/copayments and excess charges, blood (up to three pints), skilled nursing facility coinsurance, and some foreign emergency travel.
The only difference between F and G is that Plan G does not cover the Medicare Part B deductible, making it the best alternative for many people since Plan F is no longer available to new beneficiaries.
The high deductible Plan F was a good plan for people who didn’t get sick often. That is also being replaced by a high deductible Plan G option in many areas for 2020.
Medicare Supplement Plans K, L, M, and N
All four of these plans cover Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs, but the similarities end there.
While Plans N and M provide full coverage for Part B coinsurance and copayments, the first three pints of blood, Part A hospice coinsurance and copayments, and skilled nursing facility coinsurance,
Plan L only covers 75% of these benefits, and Plan K only covers 50%.
Plan N also covers the Part A deductible in full. Plan L covers 75%, while Plan M and K only cover 50%.
Plans M and N cover 80% of foreign emergency travel. Plans K and L don’t cover it at all.
Medicare Advantage Part C vs. Medicare Supplement Plans
Medicare Supplements are often confused with Medicare Advantage plans but they are two completely different types of coverage.
While Medicare Advantage plans let you add health benefits (i.e., dental, vision, prescription drugs, etc.) to your plan, Medicare Supplement plans add financial benefits by paying your copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.
In some cases, supplements might cover “small” health benefits, like Medicare fitness programs, but most often, the benefits are purely monetary.
It’s important to note that if you need to decide which is more important to you because you can’t have a Medicare Advantage Plan and a Medicare Supplement Plan at the same time.
Do Medigap plans cover pre-existing conditions?
If you enroll in Original Medicare during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), including Part B, you will have “guaranteed issue rights.”
These rights ensure that you cannot be denied Medicare Supplement enrollment or be charged more based on your age, health status, or pre-existing conditions.
However, if you do have pre-existing conditions, carriers can impose up to a six-month waiting period before your benefits begin.
If you attempt to enroll after your (IEP), carriers can put your application through “underwriting.” This means that they can decide whether or not to accept your application, how much to charge you, and whether or not you will have any coverage restrictions based on your age, health status, and pre-existing conditions.
Do Medigap plans cover prescription drugs?
In most cases, prescription drugs are not covered, unless they are needed under a service provided by Part A or Part B.
Do Medigap plans cover dental services?
Routine dental coverage for exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, and bridges is NOT covered by Medigap plans.
You can get coverage for dental procedures from some Medicare Advantage policies.
If you don’t enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, the only dental benefits that Original Medicare provides are:
- Jaw reconstruction after an accident or other medical procedures.
- Tooth extraction directly due to a disease of the jaw.
- Dental exams required due to a complicated surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital, not a dentist’s office.
How Much Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cost?
All Supplement plans require an additional monthly premium separate from the premium you pay for Part B coverage. The amounts will vary depending on which letter policy you choose because there are so many variables that must be plugged in.
Coverage for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums are different, allowing you to customize the plan that best meets your needs and affordability.
For example, Medicare Supplement Plan F has the most benefits and therefore higher associated costs. Current monthly premiums for a Plan F can range from around $100 to $400, depending on the carrier and your location.
By comparison, Plan A has the fewest benefits and has premiums that range from $60 to just over $300.
Keep in mind premiums can change from year to year depending on which pricing method a carrier uses (community-rated, issue-age-rated, or attained-age-rated).
What are the Top Rated Medicare Supplement Carriers in 2020?
Medicare Supplement plans are offered by private insurance companies, and there can be a lot of carriers to choose from.
But not all plans and carriers are available in every area.
Because it can get confusing, your best bet is to work with a licensed agent who knows the details of how Supplements work and can apply that information to your particular situation.
How to apply for a Medicare Supplement plan
Before you can buy a Supplement plan, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.
Also, you can’t have both Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement plan. If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to a Supplement plan, you’ll need to cancel your Medicare Advantage plan.
You’re not required to by a Supplement plan, but you should at least consider the possibility given your health, budget, and any future medical procedures you could face. Although a Supplement plan does not offer more coverage, it does provide a lot of additional financial coverage.
If you are going to enroll in a Supplement plan, the best time to do so is when you are first eligible. Enrolling at the right time will save you money and ensure you get approved for coverage.
If you wait, you may be denied coverage or have higher premiums and an involuntary Medicare waiting period.
When can I apply for a Medicare Supplement plan?
If you already have Original Medicare, the best time to add a Supplement plan is during your Initial Enrollment Period when you first become eligible for Medicare.
You can also enroll during your Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which is the six-month timeframe after you turn 65, and you first enroll in Part B. You may have delayed enrolling in Part B during your IEP because you had other coverage that has since ended.
During your OEP, Medigap companies must sell you a policy at the best possible rate regardless of your health issues. They can’t deny you coverage, but they can delay coverage for a period due to pre-existing conditions.
You also have a guaranteed issue right within 63 days after you lose your health coverage. A guaranteed issue right also prevents insurers from imposing a waiting period on you for coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
You can buy a Medigap policy outside of these periods, but you may run into problems. Companies can refuse to sell you a policy outside of a protected period or impose conditions based on your medical issues.
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Medicare Supplements for disabled people
If you are under 65 and have Original Medicare due to a disability, some states require insurers to allow you to enroll in a Supplement plan.
You may not have access to all the plans and will have to wait until you turn 65 to have a full range of options.
Some plans may be offered to applicants under 65, whether required by law or not, but they may charge more for the coverage, impose waiting periods for coverage, or deny coverage for pre-existing conditions because you are not yet 65.
Check with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program where you live to see what options are available to you.
One of our licensed and experienced agents can help you compare Medicare Supplements and figure out what you’re eligible for and when you can enroll.
Set up your free, no-obligation appointment by clicking here or calling 1-855-783-1189 (TTY 711).