Medicare helps with health care costs
The original Medicare plan pays for many,
but not all, health care services and supplies.
To help pay your out-of-pocket costs, you
might want to consider getting a Medigap policy,
also called Medicare Supplement Insurance.
Note: These plans can't be used to pay your
co-payments or deductibles for Medicare Advantage
You can buy a Medigap plan from a private insurance company, or you might be able to get this supplemental insurance from a former employer (your own or your spouse's) as a retiree benefit. There are also several government programs that can help you obtain Medigap coverage if you meet certain income requirements or other qualifications.
A Medigap policy is private
health insurance that's designed to supplement
the original Medicare plan and help pay some
of the health care costs that aren't covered
-- such as CO-payments, co-insurance and deductibles.
Each Medigap policy only covers one person,
so if you and your spouse both want coverage,
you each must buy separate Medigap policies.
Each standardized Medigap policy,
however, must offer the same basic benefits,
no matter which insurance company sells it.
Premiums will vary depending on the plan you
choose and the company you buy it from (the
typical premium is about $150 per month),
but usually the only difference among Medigap
policies different insurance companies sell
is the cost.
The best time to buy a Medigap
policy is during your Medigap open-enrollment
period. In all states, there is an open-enrollment
period that lasts for six months. It begins
on the first day of the month in which you
are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Part
B (some states have additional open enrollment
periods). For more information about buying
a Medigap policy, call your State Health Insurance
All Medigap policies must follow
federal and state laws that are designed to
protect consumers, and every Medigap policy
must be clearly identified as "Medicare Supplement
Insurance." Furthermore, Medigap insurance
companies can only sell you a "standardized"
Medigap policy. There are 12 such policies
identified by letters (i.e., Medigap Plans
A through L), except in Massachusetts, Minnesota
and Wisconsin, where Medigap policies are
standardized differently. Also, in some states,
you might be able to buy another type of Medigap
policy called "Medicare Select," which is
a Medigap policy that requires you to use
specific hospitals and, in some cases, specific
doctors to get full benefits.