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Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans

Medicare supplement insurance plans are private policies that help seniors afford better medical coverage. If you already have this plan or are nearing the age of 65, you have probably realized that Medicare on its own does not cover all your health expenses. The original plan can only cover 80 percent of a Medicare-approved cost, leaving a 20 percent coinsurance fee that seniors must pay on their own if they have no other coverage. Depending on your policy, Medicare supplement insurance plans quotes can take care of your coinsurance, deductibles, excess charges and other services not covered by your original plan.

Supplement Insurance Basics

To understand Medicare supplement insurance plans, it helps to better understand Medicare. This federal plan is available to American seniors age 65 and older, as well as some residents younger than 65 who depend on social security because of certain medical disabilities. Medicare consists of two parts: Part A covers inpatient hospital services, hospice care and home health care; Part B covers medically necessary services and supplies related to your regular health care. Regular doctor's visits, diabetes syringes and emergency room care are examples of Part B services. A third part, Part D, covers prescription drugs. Part D is not part of the original plan, and only enrollment in Parts A and B are required to purchase Medicare supplement insurance plans.

Seniors typically have two options to supplement their health care. One option, often referred to as a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan or Part C, replaces your regular coverage. With MA plans, you become part of a network and are subject to the restrictions of that network. For example, you might only be able to see certain doctors, and you may have to get a referral before you can see a specialist. Medicare supplement insurance plans work in conjunction with your original policy, so you can see any health care provider that accepts Medicare. There are no referral requirements or restrictions.

Types of Supplement Insurance

Seniors can choose from 10 standardized Medicare supplement insurance plans, ranging from Plan A to Plan N. Plans E, H, I and J are no longer available, but seniors who purchased these policies before June 2010 can keep them. The most popular of these plans, Plan F, is also the most comprehensive. Plan F covers all coinsurance fees, initial blood work, deductibles, hospice care, skilled nursing facility and foreign travel emergency insurance. Most supplement insurance companies offer Plan F, although providers are only legally required to offer Plan A. This is the most basic policy and covers only your coinsurance and blood work.

Healthy seniors who want a comprehensive Medgiap policy without a high monthly premium might consider a high-deductible policy. These options are good for people who have large nest eggs and can shoulder a high annual fee if they face a medical emergency, but are generally healthy. Since it can be difficult to change supplement insurance plans once you purchase one, thorough research and thought is recommended before purchasing a high-deductible plan. Examples of high-deductible policies include Plans K, L and a version of Plan F. One final type of supplement insurance policy is a new cost-sharing method found in Plans M and N. These policies have a co-pay and deductible, but monthly premiums are typically 70 to 80 percent of Plan F or D, the most comparable policies when it comes to service.

Tips for Purchasing Medigap

Before purchasing a Medigap policy, make sure you have thoroughly researched important deadlines and requirements related to Medicare supplement insurance plans. You must have enrolled in both Parts A and B of your original plan before purchasing a Medigap policy. From the date that you enrolled in both these parts, you then have six months to purchase your Medigap plan without having to apply through medical underwriting. This period, often referred to as your Open Enrollment period, is important because it means that you don't need a physical to apply, and any preexisting conditions you might have cannot determine your monthly premium. If you miss your Open Enrollment period, you may be subject to medical underwriting, and your lifestyle, health conditions and family history may affect your premium. One of the biggest lifestyle factors that can affect your rate is tobacco use.

When researching providers of Medicare supplement insurance plans, first ensure that each candidate is approved to sell Medigap policies in your state. Be wary of companies that claim to be a part of Medicare or that attempt to sell you more than one Medigap policy. While you can change Medicare supplement insurance plans or companies within certain restrictions, a company cannot legally sell you a Medigap plan if you already have one. Researching company reviews online and seeking honest feedback from other seniors is another great way to determine a Medigap company's reputation.

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