Medicare’s basic plan is only the beginning of coverage for some people. There are supplemental plans called Medigap plans that can add a lot of extra coverage onto the base Medicare plan. Medigap insurance in 2017 may provide the kind of coverage necessary to make your medical expenses more affordable. If you are eligible for Medicare or are signed up for a Medicare plan, then you should know about your supplemental options and how they can help you cover expenses.
What You Can Have Covered with a Medigap Plan
Medigap plans cover what are called supplemental expenses. These are expenses that are often related to what Medicare covers but are not exactly the same things. The gaps that Medicare leaves for you to fill on your own in medical expenses can be mostly taken care of by the supplemental Medigap plans.
Let’s look, item by item, what Medigap plans cover. Please note that not all of the ten Medigap plans will cover every one of these items or cover each item in full.
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Medicare Part A coinsurance-This is your hospice care, and while Medicare’s basic plan, under Part A, covers some hospice care, it does not cover all of it. Your supplemental plan can provide additional coverage that helps take care of expensive hospital stays.
Part A and Part B deductibles- Before the basic Medicare plan will provide its coverage, you may be required to pay a deductible first. That deductible can be covered by your supplemental plan.
Part A and Part B coinsurance- Coinsurance charges can add up for repeated hospital and doctor’s office visits. Those fees can be covered by a supplemental plan.
Part B excess charges- Medicare Part B can sometimes leave extra costs for you to cover on your own. Your supplemental plan may be able to cover those costs for you.
Pints of blood-Medicare covers you for some blood, but all supplemental plans give you an additional three pints of blood each year.
Nursing care- More nursing care coverage is provided by the supplemental plans. This is in addition to the coverage given to you by the basic Medicare plan.
Foreign emergency care- If you require emergency medical attention and the nearest medical facility is in a foreign country, you may be covered by your supplemental plan. That is, after you pay the deductible, and the coverage only extends up t $50,000.
Understand that some of the Medigap plans cover these expenses only partially or with some caveats. For example, Plan N will cover the Medicare Part B coinsurance costs, minus a small deductible here and there. You’ll have to look at each of the plans to understand how they work and exactly what they are covering. They are each unique and provide their own set of coverage.
How to Get Medigap Coverage
The way Medigap works is pretty simple. You first have to be eligible for Medicare. But once you meet that requirement, getting Medigap insurance for 2017 should be no problem. Now you don’t purchase it through Medicare. Instead, you have to go to a private insurance company to find the plan you want. Not all of those companies will offer the same sets of plans. They all choose from the same lineup provided by Medicare, but they may not all offer every one of the ten plans.
The coverage is the same between providers though. They are allowed to change their rates to suit themselves and to stay competitive, but coverage is directly controlled by Medicare. You will never find Plan F of the Medigap plans being sold with different coverage from provider to provider. All insurance providers have to abide by Medicare’s coverage rules.
The best time to sign up for one of these plans is once you are first eligible for Medicare. It’s best to look at what kinds of coverage you need and what coverage you will need in the coming years. Get all that figured out and buy your supplemental Medigap plans at the same time you get Medicare. If you don’t need any Medigap plans, then make sure you have determined that before the open enrollment period has ended. That’s the window you are given where you are guaranteed the coverage plan of your choice at a rate that isn’t determined by your health status.