Medicare Supplement: The Basics

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/16/2018

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What is Medicare Supplement insurance?

Medicare Supplement plans are offered by private insurance companies and can help cover out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), such as coinsurance, copayments and deductibles. Keep in mind that with Original Medicare there are no out-of-pocket maximums – that is, no limit to what you might have to spend. A Medicare Supplement plan could save you from accumulating big medical bills (that is, many Medicare copayments or coinsurance amounts) if you need extensive medical care. In 47 states, there are up to ten standardized Medicare Supplement plans with lettered names (Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N) but not all plans are available in all areas.  Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts have their own standardized Medicare Supplement plans.

Who can get a Medicare Supplement plan?

To enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, you must have Medicare Part A and Part B. You generally must also be age 65 or older. While Medicare Part A and Part B might be available to those under 65 with Social Security disability benefits and certain health conditions, the federal government doesn’t require that private insurance companies sell Medicare Supplement policies to people under 65. However, some states do require private insurance companies to sell Medicare Supplement to people under 65.

What might Medicare Supplement insurance cover?

The list below refers to the 10 standardized lettered Medicare Supplement plans available in most states.

  • All Medicare Supplement plans generally cover 100% of Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up.
  • All Medicare Supplement plans typically cover Medicare Part B coinsurance or copayments at least 50%. Plan K may cover this benefit at 50%, while Plan L may cover it at 75%. The rest of the plans may cover it at 100%.
  • All Medicare Supplement plans may cover the first three pints of blood in a medical procedure at least 50%. Plan K may cover this benefit at 50%, while Plan L may cover it at 75%. The rest of the plans typically cover it at 100%.
  • All Medicare Supplement plans may cover Medicare Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment at least 50%. Plan K covers this at 50%, plan L covers it at 75%. The rest of the plans cover it at 100%.
  • Eight of the ten plans cover skilled nursing facility care coinsurance at least 50%. Plans A and B don’t cover this at all. Plan K covers this at 50%, plan L covers it at 75% and the rest of the plans cover it at 100%.
  • All Medicare Supplement plans except plan A cover the Medicare Part A deductible at least 50%. Plan K and Plan M cover it at 50%. Plan L covers it at 75%. Plans B, C, D, F, G, and N cover it at 100%.
  • Plans C and F cover the Part B deductible at 100%. No other plans cover the Part B deductible.
  • Plans F and G cover Part B excess charges. No other plans cover Part B excess charges.
  • Six plans (C, D, F, G, M and N) cover foreign travel emergencies at 80%, up to plan limits.

When can I enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan?

The best time to enroll in a Medicare Supplement policy is during your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period. This is a six-month period that begins on the first day of the month in which you’re both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this period you can purchase any plan that’s available in your area and private insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you based on a pre-existing health condition. After this period is over you can still apply for Medicare Supplement coverage, but you might be turned down or charged more if you have a health condition.

What does Medicare Supplement not cover?

Medicare Supplement plans typically do not cover:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Routine dental care
  • Routine vision care
  • Nursing home care
  • Private-duty nursing

What other Medicare plans can I combine Medicare Supplement with?

You can combine Medicare Supplement with

  • Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)
  • A stand-alone prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D)

You cannot combine Medicare supplement with

  • A Medicare Advantage plan

How much do Medicare Supplement plans cost?

Medicare Supplement policies usually charge a monthly premium. The amount of this premium will depend on:

  • The plan you choose
  • The company you buy the plan from
  • The type of pricing the company uses

There are three types of pricing:

  • Community-rated (Your age does not affect the price.)
  • Issue-age-rated (The premium is based on your age when you sign up for the plan.)
  • Attained-age-rated (The premium is based on you current age, and increases over time.)

Be sure to ask about the pricing type as you are shopping for Medicare Supplement plans. You must pay your Part B premium along with your monthly Medicare Supplement premium.

If you have more questions about Medicare Supplement plans I am happy to speak with you. If you prefer, you can schedule a phone call or request an email by clicking on the buttons below. You can also find out about plan options in your area by clicking the Compare Plans button.

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