Buying Supplemental Health Insurance

When is the best time to purchase a Medicare Supplemental Insurance Policy?

The best time to buy a Medigap plan is during their Open Enrollment. During Open Enrollment you cannot be turned down or charged more because of any pre-existing health conditions. If you are 65 or older, your Open Enrollment period begins when you first enroll in Medicare Part B. If you are under 65, your Open Enrollment starts when you turn 65, and it lasts for 6 months.

If you miss the Open Enrollment period, you might find that you are not able to buy the policy that you want later. Your only option may be to take whatever policy and insurance company is willing to sell you. Insurers have greater freedom to deny applications or to charge a higher premium outside of the Open Enrollment.

What is covered in a Medigap Policy?

By law, there are only 10 standardized plans which can be offered as Medigap plans. The exception to that is Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which have developed their own standardized plans. You will find plans A-D, F, G, and K-N. Former plans E, H, I, and J have been replaced and discontinued.

Each Medigap plan offers a different set of benefits and builds on the previous plan. In other words, everything covered in Plan B is also covered in Plan C, but Plan C has some additional coverage options. All plans cover certain out-of-pocket costs such as Medicare coinsurance amounts, Medicare Part A and Part B deductibles, and foreign travel emergency costs.

Are all of the Medicare supplemental insurance policies equal?

Although Medicare supplemental plans are sold through private insurance companies at varying, they’re standardized and regulated by state and federal law. A Plan F purchased through an insurance company in New York will offer the same coverage as its counterpart Texas Medicare supplement.

While the plans are identical, the insurance companies are not. Just like any other business, each insurance company is going to offer a different level of service and support. You will want to do some research into the reputation and financial strength of any insurance company you may choose to do business with. You will want to make your decision based on price and quality of service. You can use a site like Choosing a Medigap to help you quickly and easily select a Medicare supplemental insurance plan that is offered in your area.

Does everyone who qualifies need a Medigap?

The answer is no. It is illegal for an insurance company to sell you a Medigap policy that substantially duplicates any existing coverage you already have. If you participate in a Medicare managed plan or private fee-for-service plan, you qualify for Medicaid, or you have group coverage through your spouse, you probably will not need a Medigap policy.

If you elect to work past the age of 65 and have an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you will not need a Medigap policy. In this situation, you may still want to enroll in Medicare Part A (it’s free). Once you enroll in Part B, your Open Enrollment period begins, so you will want to hold off enrolling in Part B. Remember, if you do not purchase a Medigap policy during Open Enrollment, you may later be denied coverage or find yourself paying much higher premiums for identical coverage. It is probably best to wait until your employer coverage ends before enrolling in Medicare Part B.

Lastly, if your employer has a health plan that provides coverage after you retire, you may not need a Medigap policy. Your employer’s plan may cover costs that Medicare does not. You will want to talk to your HR department about your coverage.

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