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Supplemental Medicare Insurance

Supplemental Medicare insurance isn't just for people with health problems or low incomes. Most people who have Medicare insurance need a reliable form of supplemental coverage to pay for expenses that their original plan doesn't cover. If you haven't reached the age of 65 or still have your employer's insurance, you may not realize that Medicare on its own cannot cover every cost related to the services it provides, from hospital stays to doctors' visits. Having a second form of coverage gives you the freedom and flexibility to seek care when you need it and be able to pay for it without dipping into your savings.

Your Options for Supplemental Care

You have two options to add coverage to your original Medicare plan. Either you can select a supplemental Medicare insurance policy, known as a Medigap plan, or you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan (MA), such as an HMO or PPO, which replaces your original Medicare coverage. You do not need both a supplemental insurance policy and an MA plan, and it is illegal for an insurance company to try to sell you both. Deciding which plan is best for you depends on how involved you want to be with your health care. If you like a particular health care provider or if you enjoy researching doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to see which one fits you best, a supplemental Medicare insurance policy will give you the greatest freedom to choose from a range of options. An Advantage plan sometimes limits your options by requiring that you see certain doctors or hospitals, and can add further limitations by requiring a referral to see a specialist.

If you choose a supplemental Medicare insurance policy, you have 10 options. Labeled alphabetically, these plans range from the basic Plan A, which offers just enough coverage to keep you out of financial trouble, to the comprehensive Plan F, which offers more protection than any other Medigap plan, including coinsurance, deductibles, excess charges, foreign travel emergency coverage and preventative care services. Because of its many benefits, Plan F has the highest monthly premium. A high-deductible version of Plan F allows seniors to pay lower monthly rates in exchange for a $2,000 deductible. So you pay higher out-of-pocket costs up-front but may end up saving money if you are generally healthy and avoid unexpected emergencies.

All companies must offer Plan A, which covers coinsurance for hospital visits, trips to your doctor, preventative care and hospice care. This policy also covers the first three pints of blood you need withdrawn in a given year. These benefits are encompassed in all Medigap plans. It might seem like a good idea to get the bare minimum plan if you are trying to save money, but more comprehensive supplemental Medicare insurance can often be more economical in the long run, especially if you face an unexpected medical emergency. As easy as it is to believe that freak accidents while mowing the lawn or the development of chronic conditions only plague other people, illness and injury are a part of life and can happen to anyone. Choosing a supplemental Medicare insurance policy that covers your full medical costs can ease your stress and help you focus on recovery.

Finding an Insurance Company

Many companies across the country offer supplemental Medicare insurance. Since supplemental plans are standardized by the federal government, you don't have to worry about the benefits of individual plans varying. For example, if you look at Plan N at a small company in your home town and Plan N at a national company in a bigger city, there won't be any differences. This leaves the price and overall customer service left to research. A company that is accessible and has agents who are willing to talk through issues or help you understand your policy might be a better bet than one with lower rates but nonexistent service.

Before buying a policy from any company, beware of certain practices that should raise an immediate red flag. If a company attempts to sell you a supplemental plan knowing that you already have one, this is a good indication that they're not an upstanding firm. You should also beware of any Medigap agent who claims to part of Medicare. Medigap is separate, private coverage, and reputable companies will explain it this way. Researching supplemental Medicare insurance companies online can help you find firms that are certified to sell supplemental plans in your state with reviews to back up their success. Since your health is one of the most important investments you can make as a senior, finding a supplemental Medicare insurance policy that allows you to pay for the care you need can greatly improve the quality of life of your senior years.

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