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Medicare Supplemental Insurance Plans

Medicare supplemental insurance plans are important part of choosing your overall strategy for covering health expenses after you retire. Fortunately, there are several Medicare supplemental insurance plans to choose from, so you can find the one with the right amount of coverage at the right price for you. Since Medicare on its own does not cover the full costs of many services it offers, many people who rely on Medicare turn to supplemental plans, often called Medigap, to pay for deductibles, coinsurance and other costs associated with their health. The federal government has approved 10 standardized Medigap policies, labeled Plan A through Plan N. Understanding your options with each of these Medicare supplemental insurance plans can help you make the right choice for your unique needs.

Basic Medigap Plans

If you are looking for a minimal amount of extra coverage with a low monthly premium to help bridge the gap with what Medicare provides and your out-of-pocket costs, you will probably be partial to Medigap Plan A. Often referred to as "core coverage" or "basic benefits," the services offered in Plan A must be encompassed in all other Medicare supplemental insurance plans as well. Moreover, all insurance providers who are licensed to sell Medicare supplemental policies must offer Medigap Plan A. This Medicare supplemental insurance plan covers your coinsurance for hospital and general care, as well as your first three pints of blood before Medicare takes over.

The next step up in Medicare supplemental insurance plans are Medigap Plans B, C and D. These policies include the "basic benefits" encompassed in Plan A while covering additional expenses like your coinsurance for inpatient hospital stays and hospice care. Plan C and Plan D both offer foreign travel emergency insurance and, and Plan C adds deductible coverage for general care expenses, like visits to your doctor's office or to the emergency room.

Full-Service Medigap Policies

If you are looking for the maximum coverage and are willing to pay a somewhat higher monthly premium for the coverage, you will probably want to choose Medigap Plan F or G. These are the most popular Medigap plans available because of the value in the services they provide for the rate. Plan F, for example, covers all services from Medigap Plan A as well as the deductible for all original Medicare services, 100 percent of excess charges, skilled nursing coinsurance and insurance for foreign travel emergencies. Plan G adds in-home recover services, but covers only 80 percent of excess charges and does not cover your deductible for general care.

High Deductible Medigap Plans

If you are concerned about high premiums but still want a plan with comprehensive coverage, you might want to consider a high-deductible plan, such as the high deductible version of Plan F or Plans K and L. With the high deductible Plan F, you enjoy a lower monthly premium in exchange for an annual deductible that you must pay before you can benefit from your supplemental insurance. This deductible was $2000 as of 2011. Plan K has an out-of-pocket limit of $4,640 that you must pay before you enjoy full supplemental insurance benefits. Before you reach this amount, your plan will cover your hospital coinsurance but just 50 percent of costs for general services. Plan L has a deductible of $2,320 and covers your hospital coinsurance along with 75 percent of your covered general health expenses.

You should be aware of the risks of a High Deductible plan before you choose one. If you are in good health and can afford to pay the initial out-of-pocket costs, these may be good options for you; but if you fall into poor health, you could end up with considerably higher expenses than you had expected, and it can be very difficult to change your plan. You typically must go through medical underwriting to change Medicare supplemental insurance plans, and a preexisting condition can make it difficult to qualify for the plan you want. This isn't to say these Medicare supplemental insurance plans aren't the best option for your unique situation, but they do require a little more thought and research before you make a decision. Comparing policies and rates online can help you with this research.

There are many factors to consider when researching Medicare supplemental insurance plans, from how much you can afford each month in premium costs to how much coverage you think you'll need to ensure your health costs are fully covered. Since supplemental policies are standardized, you only need to compare one Medigap policy to another to find the right one for you. Then you can simply research companies online to find the one with the best rates for your area. When it comes to Medicare supplemental insurance plans, it pays to know your options ahead of time before you make a decision.

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