Seniors who wish additional insurance coverage beyond their Medicare Parts A and B have two options – Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans or Medicare Supplement plans. The latter is sometimes referred to as Medigap insurance. While the differences are extensive, the primary difference between the MA and Supplement coverage is that supplements provide coverage while traveling, some even outside the U.S. Medicare Advantage plans, however, cover the costs of medical care only within the senior’s residing state. If you’re a snowbird – that is, your home state is one of the colder northern regions of the U.S., but you spend the winters in a warmer U.S. climate – your best bet is undoubtedly an Aetna Medicare Supplement Plan.
Once you’ve determined that your preference is for a Medicare Supplement rather than a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll want to understand the ten levels of coverage available. With the exception of Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Minnesota, each level offers the same coverage no matter in which state you reside. This means that Plan F will give you the same coverage, supplementary to your Medicare Parts A and B, whether you’re living in California or Florida, for example. The difference will be in the cost of the monthly premium.
In narrowing down your search, there are some standard filters you can begin with. For example, if you travel outside the United States, and with insurance coverage for emergency care when you do, your only Medicare Supplement options would be Plans C,D,F, G, M and N. Should Plan F appeal, you needn’t be dismayed by what is generally a higher premium than other plans. Many carriers offer a second higher-deductible Plan F option. For overseas travelers, Plan F is the most popular.
Here are the basics of Medicare Supplemental Plans 2017 levels:
- Plan A, a required level for any Medicare Supplement carrier, pays 100 percent of hospital costs for up to 365 days after Medicare Part A benefits have been exhausted. It additionally pays your co-payment and preventive care coinsurance for Medicare Part B, and the cost of 3 pints of blood
- Plan B provides all the benefits of Plan A but additionally covers any co-payment for Medicare Part A.
- Plan C adds to these Plan B benefits payment of Medicare Part B deductible, the co-insurance cost of care in a skilled nursing facility, and 80 percent of the cost of any emergency medical care while traveling outside the United States.
- Plan D is identical to Plan C except that it does not pay the deductible for Part B
- Plan F includes everything offered by plan B and adds to it the payment of any excess coverage costs incurred in Medicare Part B. It also provides coverage for the cost of emergency medical care when traveling outside of the United States.
- Plan G is identical to plan F except that it does not pay the Part B deductible. While this might lend a senior who travels outside the U.S. to consider Plan F the better coverage, it’s important to look closely at the comparison of premiums. With a current low Part B deductible of $183, it might well be that the difference in cost between Plans F and G are greater than this $183.
- Plan K pays the same hospitalization benefits as Plan A and also pays 50 percent of the costs of: Any deductible for Part A; Part B’s co-payment or co-insurance; 3 pints of blood; co-insurance for care in a skilled nursing facility; and the co-insurance or co-payment for hospice care through Part A. It also pays the entire co-insurance fee for Part B’s preventive care coverage.
- Plan L’s format is identical to Plan K, with one exception. For each coverage provided at the rate of 50 percent in Plan K, Plan L increases that payment to 75 percent.
- Plan M provides all benefits offered by Plan A, additionally covers the co-insurance for a skilled nursing facility, 80 percent of any cost incurred for emergency medical care while traveling overseas, and half the cost of any Medicare Part A deductible.
- Plan N is identical to Plan M except that it pays all of the Part A deductible. This plan might well be an excellent and affordable choice for seniors who need few doctor visits. The co-pays for these few visits might well be less than the difference between the Plan N premium and another that covers more or all of any doctor visit.
Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Minnesota require that each Medicare Supplement Insurance carrier offer Plan A, as with other states. To this regulation these three states also add a requirement that any carrier offering Plans other than Plan A must include Plans C and F.
Medico and Americo offer top-notch Medicare Supplement plans, as do several other carriers.
Here, then, are the other eight of the top 10 Medicare Supplement insurance companies, with some examples of their plans in various states. For several we’ve provided monthly premium approximations as well:
- Aetna Coventry Medicare – A Charlotte, North Carolina resident could choose from Plans A, B, F, G and N.
- Cigna Medicare – Supplement plans offered through Cigna include A, F, G and N.
- Mutual of Omaha – Plans A and F are offered in all states, while select states also offer plans G and N.
- Transamerica – its supplement options are Plans A, F, G and N.
- Blue Cross / Blue Shield – A senior living in Dallas, Texas could choose from Plans A, F, G, K, L and N, with an additional Plan F option that carries a higher deductible. The range of monthly premium is approximately $53 to $181.
- Humana Medicare – in Cleveland, Ohio, for example, Humana offers Plans A, B, C, F and N. There are four different levels of Plan F, however, at both the low and high end of supplement costs in the area. The range is approximately $52 to $156, with the premiums determined by the amount of annual deductible for each.
- HealthNet Medicare plans include A, C, F, G, K, L and M. Additionally, there is a second Plan F that carries a higher deductible than the standard. A senior living in Los Angeles, California would pay approximately $64 to $162 per month at age 65.
- AARP UnitedHealthcare – Perhaps the best Medicare supplement insurance company, Among the various AARP Medicare Supplemental plans are 10 options for a senior living in metro Phoenix, Arizona. Endorsed by the the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), participation in this carrier’s plans in any state requires a senior to be an AARP member. In addition to Plans A, B, C, F, G, K, L and N, United Healthcare’s AARP options in Arizona include an upgrade to Plans F and C. Estimated monthly premiums range from $42 for Plan K to $140 for Plan F.
Seniors considering a Medicare Supplement but concerned about the monthly cost – generally greater than Medicare Advantage programs – can be assured of a wide range of premium options. Very generally, a female age 65 in good health could expect to pay within a range of approximately $40-$180 in monthly premiums for a Medicare Supplement plan. While this might seem less attractive than the MA option, many of which charge no monthly premium, a Medicare Supplement plan might well save you money. The savings in out-of-pocket fees for deductibles, co-payments, hospital stays that exceed what Medicare Plan A covers, and so forth, could be considerable. One should closely gauge travel plans and the need for medical care when choosing between the many options.