Why Should I Enroll in a Medicare Supplement Plan?

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Once you’re 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you may have a choice to enroll in additional insurance called Medicare Supplement (Medigap). Unlike Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) which is administered by the government, Medicare Supplement plans are offered by private insurance companies and can help you pay for out-of-pocket costs for services covered under Original Medicare. These costs could be copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles, for example.

What Medicare Supplement may cover

There are up to 10 Medicare Supplement Plans offered in most states labeled A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N. (Plans E, H, I, J are no longer offered). The most basic of these plans is Plan A (not to be confused with Medicare Part A). Medicare Supplement Plan A may cover:

  • Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up
  • Medicare Part B coinsurance or copayment
  • Blood (first 3 pints)
  • Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment

The most comprehensive of the 10 standard Medicare Supplement plans is Plan F, which typically covers the same four benefits as Plan A, listed above, as well as five additional benefits. These benefits are:

  • Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
  • Part A deductible
  • Part B deductible
  • Part B excess charge
  • Foreign travel at 80% up to plan limits

Doctor visits: How Medicare Supplement plans can help

A Medicare Supplement plan that covers doctor visits copayments (all of the 10 standard plans generally cover doctor visits at least 50%) could be useful if you know that you will have a lot of doctor visits. If you visit the doctor frequently, the copayments could add up. The Medicare Part B (medical care) deductible is $183 in 2017. After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services. If you know that you will be visiting the doctor multiple times a month, the amount you could save on copayments by having a Medicare Supplement plan could exceed the cost of the additional insurance plan.

Durable medical equipment: How Medicare Supplement plans can help

Durable medical equipment comes with a Part B coinsurance that could be covered by a Medicare Supplement plan. Durable medical equipment could be a walker, wheelchair, hospital bed, or other medical equipment ordered by your doctor for use in the home. For example, a hospital bed that costs $2,000 might have a coinsurance amount of $400 (the Medicare Part B coinsurance is typically 20%). A Medicare Supplement plan may cover this coinsurance.

Extensive hospitalization: How Medicare Supplement plans can help

Medicare Supplement coverage could also save you money if face extensive hospitalization. If you are hospitalized 1-60 days, you pay $0 coinsurance for each benefit period under Medicare Part A. For days 61-90 of hospitalization you pay $329 per day of each benefit period. For days 91 and beyond, you pay $658 coinsurance per each lifetime reserve day for each benefit period, up to 60 days over your lifetime. This means that a 70-day hospitalization could cost you $3,290, and a 95-day hospitalization could cost you $13,160. A Medicare Supplement plan could cover those costs. Please note that the costs in this paragraph are all 2017 amounts.

Travelling: How Medicare Supplement plans can help

Another potential benefit of certain Medicare Supplement plans is if you are planning on some foreign travel. Travelers are not immune from health problems and you could find yourself in a hospital overseas. In general, Medicare doesn’t cover health care you get outside of the U.S. (Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa are considered part of the U. S.) Six Medicare Supplement Plans may cover foreign travel medical emergencies at 80% (up to plan limits): Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N.

Perhaps the best way to determine if you should enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan is to think about whether you may need the services the plans cover and how much you would pay out-of-pocket for those services. If you realize that you could pay more out-of-pocket for Medicare-covered services than the plan’s monthly premiums would cost you, then applying for a Medicare Supplement plan could be a good choice.

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This website and its contents are for informational purposes only. Nothing on the website should ever be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.


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