Choose the Coverage You Need First, not the Insurance Company.
There are dozens of companies that sell Medicare Supplements are additional insurance policies that Medicare beneficiaries can purchase to cover the gaps in their Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B) health insurance coverage...., so how do you know which company to choose? Rest assured MedicareWire has been reviewing plans and carriers since 2012. Here's a review of our top picks.
- Medicare supplements (aka, Medigap plans) are standardized. That means a Medicare Supplement Plan F is the most comprehensive Medicare supplement plan available. This plan covers all Original Medicare deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments, leaving you with no out-of-pocket costs on all Medicare-approved services.... from Aetna has the same coverage as a Plan F policy from AARP (UnitedHealthcare).
- The best time to buy a Medigap policy is when you first qualify for Medicare benefits. For most people, this is on their 65th birthday. This is when beneficiaries have a Guaranteed-issue is a right granted to Medicare beneficiaries and applies to Medicare Supplement insurance (aka, Medigap plans). All states and the federal government enforce this essential right, which protects Medicare beneficiaries from medical underwriting.....
- Supplemental Medicare insurance benefits people with chronic health conditions the most. The top 3 plans (F, G, and N) cover the major gaps in Original Medicare is private fee-for-service health insurance for people on Medicare. It has two parts. Part A is hospital coverage. Part B is medical coverage.....
- People with a Medigap plan pay the majority of their healthcare costs in advance, but the overall cost is generally less than Original Medicare alone or a Medicare Advantage plan.
Choose the Plan Before the Insurance Company
One of the most challenging aspects of Medicare insurance is separating the mass media marketing from what is best for you, the Medicare Beneficiary. So, before we ever talk about our plan picks, we feel that it is important to reiterate one of the top benefits of Medicare supplements.
Medigap plans are standardized.
The following Medicare supplement comparison chart shows what each standardized Medigap plan covers. Down the left-hand column, you have all of the shared costs (i.e., coverage gaps) in Original Medicare. Across the top, you have each lettered plan (A, B, C, D, etc.).
NOTE: It's easy to confuse Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D with Medigap Plans A, B, C, and D. Medicare organizes its coverage in "Parts". Private insurance offers "Plans".
Which Medicare Supplement is the Best?
One of the most common questions people ask us about Medigap insurance is, “Which Medicare supplement is the best?”
It’s a great question, but the answer is different for everyone. The reason this is true is that there are so many different factors, including:
- Where you live
- Your age
- Your health
- Your finances and financial goals
- Your use of tobacco
Let’s talk about some plans and the reasons you might choose one over another.
When “Best” = “Most Coverage”
For some, the question of best means getting the most coverage. Medigap Plan F offers the most coverage possible. It covers ALL the cost gaps in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).
Unfortunately, Plan F is no longer available (Congress put the kibosh on Part B deductible coverage) for new seniors. As a result, Medigap Plan G is the next best (most coverage) available.
The good news is that the overall cost of a Plan G policy + the annual Part B deductible generally makes Plan G a better deal anyway. You can refer back to the chart above for a visual way to compare what each lettered plan covers.
When “Best” = “Good Coverage with Some Out-of-Pocket Costs”
As retirees (or approaching retirement), many of us find ourselves on a fixed budget. At the same time, we may be super healthy or have a chronic condition that’s easily managed through medications and does not require a specialist.
If this is your situation, a Plan F or G policy might be too expensive or simply wasteful. In this case, a Medigap Plan N policy could be an excellent option to consider. Here’s why.
In most areas, a Plan N policy can run 20-30% less than a Plan G. Even more when compared to a Plan F. If you are a healthy senior, the monthly premium difference really adds up.
Plan N is so much lower than Plan F and G because you take on some of the costs. For example, with a Plan N policy, you pay up to $20 when you see your doctor and up to $50 to use the emergency room.
But… because you’re healthy, these are rare occurrences. And, your annual wellness exam is excluded. This doctor visit is covered 100% by Medicare.
If you have a chronic condition that you and your primary care physician are managing through medication, without involving a specialist, Plan N could be a cost-saving option for you, as well. It all depends on how frequently you need to see your doctor and whether you pay A Medicare Part B excess charge is the difference between a health care provider’s actual charge and Medicare’s approved amount for payment.... to see your doctor(s).
Part B Excess Charges are additional fees (up to 15%) that doctors may charge if they do not accept Medicare-assignment (Medicare’s standard rates). Medigap Plan N does not cover Excess Charges, whereas Plan G does. If you are not in this situation with your doctor, that’s another plus in the Plan N column.
And that’s it. If paying a small copay to see your doctor and not having coverage for Excess Charges works for you, add Plan N to your shortlist.
When “Best” = “Lowest Monthly Cost + Risk Protection”
One aspect of Medigap coverage that I like to point out is how it compares to Medicare Advantage. Many people ask me why they should consider a Medigap plan when some Medicare Advantage (MA), also known as Medicare Part C, are health plans from private insurance companies that are available to people eligible for Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B).... have a zero-dollar monthly premium.
To truly understand this question, you need to look at total cost vs. risk. With a Medigap policy, you pay most costs in advance via monthly A premium is an amount that an insurance policyholder must pay for coverage. Premiums are typically paid on a monthly basis. In the federal Medicare program, there are four different types of premiums. .... With a Medicare Advantage plan, you pay most costs at the point of service via A copayment, also known as a copay, is a set dollar amount you are required to pay for a medical service.....
This fundamental difference lulls some people into a false sense of lower cost with a Medicare Advantage plan. The reality is that the only people who experience lower costs in a Medicare Advantage plan vs. a Medigap plan are healthy people who rarely need healthcare services.
However, there is one aspect of Medicare Advantage that is very beneficial. It’s called MOOP (Maximum Out-of-Pocket), and it applies to Medicare Advantage copays and Coinsurance is a percentage of the total you are required to pay for a medical service. ... costs. With these plans, you are protected by an annual MOOP, which is currently no more than $6,700 per year, in-network, or $10,000 if you use out-of-network providers.
Those are scary numbers, but you need to consider that with Original Medicare, there are no limits or out-of-pocket protections. None. Nada. Zip!
So, that brings us to Medigap Plan K.
Like Plan N, with Plan K you share some of the costs (see the chart on page 2). But, unlike Plan N, there’s an annual limit on your Out-of-pocket costs (aka, out-of-pocket medical expenses) are costs that a beneficiary must pay because their health insurance does not cover them. Out-of-pocket costs are found in the deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance outlined in each health... with Plan K (currently $5,880). When you hit the MOOP with Plan K, all Medicare Part A is hospital inpatient coverage for people with Original Medicare, whereas Part B is medical coverage for doctor visits, tests, etc.... and B charges are paid for you at 100% for the remainder of the year.
This is a plan option for people who need to manage their budget and can take a little risk because they have good health, or their health condition(s) do not necessitate frequent health services.
Here are some recent examples:
- 65 year-old woman, Naples, FL:
- Plan G: $169.23/mo
- Plan K: $60.65/mo
- 65 year-old man, Phoenix, AZ:
- Plan G: $113.50/mo
- Plan K: $41.15/mo
Your rates will be based on your location, age, gender, etc. These are two examples for comparison purposes.
If you didn’t get a Plan K quote from us and want one, reply back and we'll get it right out to you.
Look to the Future First when Choosing a Medigap Plan
One of the most difficult lessons anyone can learn when it comes to their health insurance is that when you need it the most, it's too late to buy more coverage.
One of the services we offer here at MedicareWire.com is a free analysis of Medigap insurance rates in your area. If you'd like one simply fill out this form (no spam, no sales calls, no mailing lists, no kidding!).
On a daily basis, we get requests for our free Medigap quote service from folks who check the "Best Plan for Chronic Conditions" box. It's heartbreaking when we see that the person is already over age 65 because they no longer have their guaranteed issue right. As a result, when they apply for Medicare supplement insurance they are frequently turned down. If they are accepted, it's generally in a plan with a lot less coverage than they want or need.
Here's some sage advice. Plan for the future. The old adage, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst" applies perfectly to Medicare supplement insurance. Here's why.
- As we age our health tends to decline, but our retirement income does not. Budgeting early for the most insurance you can afford means that you won't struggle to pay your bills when your health declines.
- If you already have chronic health conditions when you first get your Medicare benefits, you may only have one opportunity to get the coverage you need for affordable health care. Most chronic health conditions, even when well-managed with prescription medications, do not pass medical underwriting with Medicare supplement insurance companies.
Medigap Plan F—Long Live the King
If you're familiar with Medigap plans, you might know that Medicare Supplement Plan F covers the most gaps. In fact, Plan F covers all of the gaps in Original Medicare (Parts A and B). That being the case, it's reasonable that Plan F would be at the top of our list for best Medicare supplement plans, but it's not.
One of the benefits of our free Medicare supplement quotes service is that we see rates from coast to coast. And, with the most coverage available, you'd expect Plan F to be the most expensive, but as of early 2020, the rates are all out of whack. Here's why.
A while back Congress voted to no longer allow insurance carriers to cover the Medicare Part B is medical coverage for people with Original Medicare. It covers doctor visits, specialists, lab tests and diagnostics, and durable medical equipment. Part A is for hospital inpatient care.... deductible. This is the deductible that Medicare beneficiaries pay when they see their doctor, get lab tests, need medical supplies, etc. Two plans cover the Part B deductible, Plans F and C. As a result, these plans are no longer available if you qualify for Medicare benefits on or after January 1, 2020.
Even if these plans were available, they don't equal the benefits and value of our top pick. The reason this is true is because of the monthly premiums. In nearly all cases, the annualized cost of a Plan F premium exceeds the Medicare Part B deductible by a large margin.
#1 Plan Choice: Medigap Plan G—Good as You Can Get
What makes If you're turning age 65 this year, Medicare Supplement Plan G is the most comprehensive Medicare supplement you can buy. It's also the most popular. You might be thinking that Medicare Supplement Plan F is... our #1 choice is that it covers all gaps in Original Medicare except the Part B deductible. But the annualized cost of a Plan G policy, plus the annual Part B deductible, is almost always less than a Plan F policy. Although you don't get first-dollar coverage with a Plan G policy, as you do with Plan F, the overall cost savings makes it worth it.
What exactly makes a Medigap Plan G so great? Here's the shortlist:
- It pays all inpatient A deductible is an amount a beneficiary must pay for their health care expenses before the health insurance policy begins to pay its share.... and coinsurance that come with Medicare Part A coverage, including care in a skilled nursing facility (SNF).
- Medicare Part B coinsurance, including Excess Charges, for doctor visits, specialists, diagnostics, laboratory tests, and durable medical equipment.
- Hospice care.
- Emergency medical care (80%) when you travel outside the USA.
People with a Plan G policy are covered for all of their major medical expenses. And, once the policy is issued, it cannot be canceled for any reason, so long as you continue to pay your monthly premiums.
#2 Plan Choice: Medigap Plan N—The Newest Plan Saves Healthy Seniors Money
Medicare Supplemental Plan N is one of the ten standardized Medigap plans. Although it is one of the newest plans available, Medicare Plan N is quickly becoming a favorite with Baby Boomers aging into their... is the newest of the 10 supplemental policies available today. It's our solid #2 choice because it offers excellent coverage while saving its enrollees a serious amount of money. How much money? Our studies show that, in most areas, a Plan N policy will save about $264 per year compared to a Plan G, and more than $624 per year compared to a Plan F.
Where a Plan N policy differs from a Plan G is in its Part B coverage. A Medicare Supplement Plan N does not cover the Part B Excess Charges and it does not pay the full coinsurance when you see your doctor or use the emergency room. For these services, a Plan N policyholder pays up to $20 and $50, respectively.
The lack of coverage for Part B Excess Charges and the small copays are what make Plan N such a great deal for healthy seniors. Think about it, if you rarely see your doctor for anything other than your annual checkup, which Medicare covers 100%, you are unlikely to incur excess charges or pay the copays.
In other words, for healthy seniors who maintain their good health, a Plan G policy is a waste of money. Here's an idea to think about, healthy seniors. Get a Plan N policy and put the money you save vs. a Plan G in a savings account to use when and if you ever need it.
#3 Plan Choice: Medigap Plan K or L—Share Costs and Save Even More
If you are on the fence about Medigap vs. Medicare Advantage, it pays to have a look at Medicare Supplement Plan K is one of two unique Medicare supplements with shared-cost coverage and an annual out-of-pocket limit. This is a plan that works for people looking for help with certain Original Medicare costs... and L. These are cost-sharing plans that offer a maximum out-of-pocket limit (MOOP), just like Medicare Advantage plans.
Why get one of these plans instead of a Medicare Advantage plan? The reasons are many, but here are our top reasons:
- No provider networks. Choose any doctor or specialist that accepts Medicare.
- Inpatient hospitalization costs will be lower.
- Coverage travels with you anywhere you go in the USA (no foreign travel coverage).
- Doctor visits and other Medicare Part B costs are on par with the best Medicare Advantage plans.
A couple of years ago the Kaiser Family Foundation did a study and found that most people with a Medicare Advantage plan will pay more for a five or more day stay in the hospital than people with Original Medicare alone. What does that mean?
If you have a chronic health condition that requires occasional hospital stays, a Plan K or Plan L policy will cost you less out-of-pocket than a Medicare Advantage plan. The same may be true when it comes to your copays, depending on how often you see your doctor, specialist, and your need for tests and medical supplies. Currently, Plan K's MOOP is $5,880 per year, and Plan L is at $3,110 per year (2021 rates). Compare this to the majority of Medicare Advantage plans, which range from $4,800 to $7,550 per year.
Can you afford to pull up to $7,550 out of your pocket for your inpatient and outpatient care? What about the hassle of using provider networks and getting referrals?
Although most Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits, the cost of the additional benefits, including their copays, does not factor into the annual MOOP. The maximum out-of-pocket limit is only your copays and coinsurance when you use healthcare services.
Anyone considering a Medicare Advantage plan because they believe it will save them money would be well-advised to look at Plans K and L. And be sure to read our analysis on the 7 reasons Medicare Advantage plans are bad.
Our Top Medicare Supplement Insurance Company Choices
United Healthcare Medicare Supplement Plans
UnitedHealthcare Medicare Supplements are part of the UnitedHealth Group, a top 10 ranked Fortune 500 company. With annual revenue in excess of $200 billion, UnitedHealthcare is the largest healthcare company in the world and highly trusted as well. Fortune magazine labeled UnitedHealth Group as the “World’s Most Admired Company” in Insurance and Managed Care. With more than 100 million Americans enrolled in a health plan through UnitedHealthcare, they are the undisputed leader.
Even though UnitedHealthcare sells the majority of its plans under the AARP Medicare Supplements moniker, it directly offers Medicare Supplements in most states with seven different plan options to choose from. In most areas their rates are competitive, and it's hard to beat their financial strength. UnitedHealthcare has a AA- financial rating with S&P and an A rating with A.M. Best.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with UnitedHealthcare.
Humana Medicare Supplement Plans
Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Humana was founded in 1961. Today it's one of the largest publicly traded health benefits companies in the United States. The company serves over 14 million medical members and another 7 million specialty members. Over the years the company has received numerous awards for its innovative products and quality service.
Known more for their Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO plans, Humana is one of the largest Medicare Supplement insurers. Although they do not score at the top level in our reviews, because they do not offer as wide a range of plans as other carriers, they do have competitive rates. That's why they made our top 5 best Medicare Supplement plans list.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with Humana.
Aetna Medicare Supplement Plans
Aetna is an American-managed health care company. They offer traditional and consumer-directed health insurance and related services, such as medical, pharmaceutical, dental, behavioral health, long-term care, and disability plans. Since November 28, 2018, the company has been a subsidiary of CVS Health.
Aetna Medicare Supplement plans are underwritten through one of their subsidiary companies. Depending on which state you are in you will see either Continental Life of Brentwood Tennessee, American Continental, or Aetna Health and Life. All of these companies are owned by Aetna and are featured in our Medigap plan directory.
Aetna maintains an A rating with A.M. Best. In most states, the company offers plans F, G, and N. Their rates are very competitive on Plans G and N. With all of Aetna’s Medicare supplement plans you get:
- 30 day free look period
- 12-month rate guarantee
- Guaranteed renewable for life
- Freedom to choose doctors
- Portable coverage
- Household discount (where available)
Aetna has made our top 5 best Medicare Supplement plans list every year since 2013.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with Aetna.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Supplement Plans (BCBS)
It's easy to mistake Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) as one company, but it's not. There are 36 independent and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies. Combined they deliver health insurance coverage to one in three Americans. Recognized BlueCross and BlueShield brands include Anthem, Regence, Premera, Highmark, CareFirst, Wellmark, Horizon, Excellus, Empire, and Florida Blue. Regardless of their name, all BCBS companies share a single attribute: quality patient care.
Since 1929, when a simple grassroots movement turned into the nation's first health insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield companies have been at the forefront of healthcare in America. The association is well-known for its healthcare quality, access, and affordability.
Although Medicare Supplement plans are not the core business of the Blues, Medicare beneficiaries are, and the Blues consistently have one of the top ten best rates on all of the plans they offer. Many of the Blues offer Medicare SELECT is a type of Medigap policy (Medicare supplement plan) that requires its members to get their primary care from a contracted provider.... plans, saving beneficiaries a significant amount on their monthly premiums. These are just a few of the reasons Blue Cross Blue Shield made our top 5 best Medicare Supplement plans list.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with the Blue Cross Blue Shield company in your area.
Cigna Medicare Supplement Plans
Cigna is a Fortune 500 insurance conglomerate with a family of businesses serving over 95 million people. Cigna Medicare supplement insurance is underwritten by several companies, including Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, American Retirement Life Insurance Company, and Loyal American Life Insurance Company. We feature plans from all three companies in your directory.
Cigna's supplemental Medicare insurance is available in 38 states, however, not all plans are available everywhere due to state regulations. As with all Medicare supplement insurance, coverage varies from plan to plan and location.
Cigna and its other associated brands are rarely price leaders. They have not made our top 5 best Medicare Supplement plans list since 2014.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with Cigna.
Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement Plans
Mutual of Omaha was founded in Nebraska in 1909 under the name Mutual Benefit Health & Accident Association. The company has been in the Medicare business since the beginning days of the federal health program, making Mutual of Omaha the oldest Medicare supplement carrier in existence. Unlike some plans, Mutual of Omaha's Medicare Supplement plans are available to beneficiaries age 65 and older and to those under age 65 with qualifying disabilities. As with all Medicare supplement plans, coverage is regulated by the Federal government and state insurance board.
Rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best, Mutual of Omaha is a conglomerate of several companies, with combined annual revenue in excess of 9 billion dollars, including:
- United of Omaha Life Insurance Company
- United World Life Insurance Company
- Mutual of Omaha Investor Services
Mutual of Omaha Medicare supplement plans are underwritten by Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance Company, United World Life Insurance Company, United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, and Omaha Insurance Company. All of these plans are featured in our directory.
Mutual of Omaha offers the following features:
- No application fee
- Up to 12% household discounts (varies by state)
- Rapid policy issue
- Electronic delivery of temporary ID card when needed
- Nationwide coverage – you can see any provider in the U.S. that accepts Medicare
- Guaranteed Renewable – you cannot be canceled for health conditions or medical usage
- Free-look period of 30 days
All of these features, plus their world-renowned customer service have kept Mutual of Omaha on our top 5 best Medicare Supplement plans list since 2012.
Call 1-855-728-0510 (TTY 711) to speak with a licensed agent contracted with Mutual of Omaha
Compare the Best Medigap Plans in Your State
Frequently Asked Questions About Medigap Plans
If your definition of the best is most coverage, then Medigap Plan F is the best you can get. But, there are many factors that you should consider, including your financial goals and your health. Many healthy seniors can afford to take a little risk. In this situation, Medigap Plan N is an excellent way to save money. Also, if you are turning age 65 in 2021, Medigap Plan G is the best plan you can get. Find and compare plan options here.
Are Medicare supplements worth it? It might seem as if Medigap plans are expensive. But, going with Original Medicare alone is not wise. The coverage gaps in Medicare add up fast, particularly if you have an emergency. Paying 20% of all your outpatient coverage might not seem so bad, but getting slapped with a $1,400 hospital bill really smarts. And that's just for the deductible! We answer this question in more detail right here.
According to MedicareWire research, the average Medicare Supplement premium in 2020 was just over $158 per month. However, cost varies widely by area, coverage, and age. For more information, check out this article
According to MedicareWire research, the average Medicare Supplement premium in 2020 was just over $158 per month. However, cost varies widely by area, coverage, and age. For more information, check out this article