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Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medicare supplement insurance has helped seniors of all kinds of financial backgrounds to pay for their medical expenses by making the original Medicare plan more affordable. Since Medicare cannot cover all expenses related to your health care, most seniors need a form of extra coverage to pay for coinsurance and other costs related to their health care. Since retirement can be financially stressful as it is, supplemental insurance and Medicare offers peace of mind that your medical expenses are covered.

Medicare Supplement Basics

Medicare is a government-offered insurance plan for seniors age 65 and older, along with some people younger than 65 with certain disabilities or health conditions. Medicare is comprised to two parts. Part A covers inpatient hospital services, hospice care, skilled nursing facility and home health care. Part B covers general physician care, including doctors' visits, outpatient hospital care, emergency room insurance and preventative services. Medicare can cover 80 percent of an approved amount, leaving a 20 percent coinsurance fee that seniors must pay out-of-pocket without a form of Medicare supplement insurance, also called Medigap. Seniors must be enrolled in both parts A and B before purchasing a Medigap plan.

Plans

The federal government has approved 10 standardized Medicare supplement insurance plans, labeled Plan A through Plan N. Each offer varying benefits at different monthly premiums. Medicare supplement insurance companies do not need to offer all 10 plans, although every company must offer Plan A. This is the most basic Medigap plan and covers coinsurance for Parts A and B along with the first three pints of blood you need withdrawn in a given year. Medigap Plan B offers slightly more coverage, including you Part A deductible in your coverage. Plan C is more comprehensive, including your Part B deductible and foreign emergency travel insurance.

For the most part, policies increase in coverage beyond Plan A, but this isn't always the case. Medicare supplement insurance Plan D offers foreign travel insurance, but does not include your Part B deductible. Plans E, H, I and J are no longer available to purchase, but you can keep these plans if you already enrolled in them. Plan F is the most comprehensive and most popular plan, covering your coinsurance, deductibles, excess charges, foreign emergency travel insurance and skilled nursing care facility coinsurance. Plan F also offers a high deductible version that features all the regular benefits of Plan F for a lower premium after you pay a $2,000 annual deductible.

Plan G is the runner-up for most comprehensive Medicare supplement insurance. This supplement plan offers all the benefits of Plan F minus the Part B deductible. The regular Plan F and Plan G are good options for people who don't have a lot of savings and would have a difficult time weathering a medical emergency while facing big out-of-pocket costs like deductibles. Even with higher monthly premiums, these supplement plans are often the greatest value.

Like the high deductible version of Plan F, supplement Plans K and L also offer comprehensive coverage after an annual deductible is paid. The personally financed annual limit for Plan K was $4,640 in 2011. Until you pay this amount, your Medicare supplement insurance will cover 50 percent of your coinsurance for most Part B services. Plan K covers all your hospital coinsurance costs regardless of your deductible. Plan L had a $2,320 annual limit in 2011. Before you reach this limit, Plan L covers 75 percent of your Part B coinsurance. As with Plan K, your Part A coinsurance is already covered.

The newest Medicare supplement insurance policies, Medigap Plans M and N, were introduced in 2010 as a cost-sharing option. These plans use copays to lower the monthly premium. Plan M, for example, covers your coinsurance but only 50 percent of your Part A deductible. Plan N covers your Part A and B deductibles, but you have a $20 copay for doctor's visits, and a $50 copay for emergency room visits. Unlike Plan M, Plan N covers foreign emergency travel coverage.

With so many supplement policies from which to choose, finding the right one for you at the greatest value can be confusing. Researching policies online can help you determine your options and learn what prices are available with different firms. Understanding how each policy will affect you given your health conditions, family history and lifestyle can help you decide which Medigap plan will provide the best coverage for your unique situation. If you hope to travel extensively in retirement, for example, you'll want to make sure your plan offers Medicare supplement insurance for foreign emergencies. No matter which policy you choose, it is important to purchase your supplement coverage within six months of enrolling in Part A and Part B. During this period, called Open Enrollment, you can choose the policy you most desire without having to go through medical underwriting.

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