A Shopper’s Guide to Comparing Medicare Supplement Prices
When you become eligible for Medicare, you also have the opportunity to purchase supplemental insurance, or a Medicare Supplement.
After many, many years of helping seniors in the Medicare industry, we’ve realized that there are some simple things that many don’t know when it comes to shopping around for Medicare Supplements.
That’s why we decided to put together a shopper’s guide for comparing Medicare Supplement prices.
While there aren’t exactly discount codes for Medicare Supplements, there are ways to save money, so let’s get right into it.
What’s a Medicare Supplement?
First thing’s first: a Medicare Supplement is a health insurance plan you can purchase to cover the costs left behind from Medicare. They’re also called Medigap plans, which means the same thing as Medicare Supplement.
Medicare covers about 80% of your Medicare-approved medical expenses. A Medicare Supplement can pay for some or all of the remaining 20%.
Medicare Supplement have no networks, they’re standardized by the government, they’re guaranteed renewable, and there are lots of plan options.
Read more: What Is a Medicare Supplement?
Step 1: Choose the right Medicare Supplement for you.
When it’s time to choose a Medicare Supplement, you may see that there are 11 options.
However, many of those plan options don’t provide enough coverage for us to recommend them – they still leave you with a good bit of financial risk, which is the opposite of our goal!
But, the good news is that this makes it easier to narrow down your choices.
The 3 most popular Medicare Supplements are Plans F, G, and N.
The latest research on Medicare Supplement enrollment is from 2018, which showed how popular each plan is among those who enroll in a Medigap plan:
- Plan F: 54%
- Plan G (and D): 19%
- Plan N: 11%
Over the past several years, Plan F enrollment has started to decrease slightly, while Plan G and N have started to increase.
Keep in mind that Plan F is changing on January 1, 2020. Congress passed a pretty lengthy bill called the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 – it also goes by MACRA.
Essentially, this bill makes it illegal for Medigap policies to cover the Medicare Part B deductible to Medicare beneficiaries who are newly eligible on or after January 1, 2020.
That means that Plan F (and Plan C and High-Deductible Plan F) cannot be purchased by people who are newly eligible to Medicare starting in 2020.
If that would be you, then you’d want to pay closer attention to Plans G and N. However, if you’re already eligible for Medicare – or will be before 2020 – you can still buy a Plan F. In fact, you can always buy a Plan F.
That said, here are how those 3 plans compare:
|Medigap Plan F||Medigap Plan G||Medigap Plan N|
|Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Part B coinsurance or copayment||Yes||Yes||Yes, but you do have copays of up to $20 for office visits and $50 for ER visits|
|Blood (first 3 pints)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Skilled nursing facility coinsurance||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Part A deductible||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Part B deductible||Yes||No||No|
|Part B excess charges||Yes||Yes||No|
|Foreign travel exchange (up to plan limits)||80%||80%||80%|
Medigap Plan F offers comprehensive coverage, meaning you won’t get a bill for any Medicare-approved charges.
Medigap Plan G follows as a close second with almost comprehensive coverage. With Plan G, you’re only responsible for the Part B deductible, which is $198. Once you meet your deductible, all of your bills are covered. Plan G is the most popular plan among our clients – it’s the “favorite,” we guess you could say.
Medigap Plan N is a more modest policy – it still provides good coverage, but there are a few items you’re responsible for. The first is the copayments for doctor visits, which are about $20 for an office visit, and $50 for an ER visit.
Second is the Part B deductible ($198), and lastly is Part B excess charges. We’ve never had excess charges become an issue, but it is possible. An excess charge occurs if a doctor charges more than the Medicare-approved amount. For example, Medicare might say “this service should cost $200, so we’ll pay accordingly.” The doctor might say, “Well, I charge $250.” That $50 would be considered an excess charge.
Step 2: Be prepared for rate increases.
Once you’ve chosen the right Medicare Supplement for you, it’s time to gear up for rate increases.
Rate increases mainly happen because the carrier needs to increase premiums for everyone to make up for claims experience and also because most plans are based on an attained age pricing structure.
That just means the price of the plan is based on your current age, so it will go up each year on your birthday.
Here’s a quick example of a typical Medicare Supplement age increase scenario:
- At age 65, you pay $92.63.
- At age 66, you pay $92.63.
- At age 67, you pay $92.63.
- At age 68, you pay $96.74.
- At age 69, you pay $100.94.
That’s just part of having a Medicare Supplement, and it’s to be expected. However, if your premium starts going up more than is comfortable, it’s time to hit the market and see what’s out there!
Which leads us to…
Step 3: Price shop the Medigap market.
If you have an agent here at Medicare Allies, we’ll contact you each and every year for your annual review.
During that time, we’ll shop the Medigap market for you to make sure you’re still in the best place possible. If that’s not the case, we can consider switching Medigap companies.
The main differences between Medigap companies are the price and the underwriting.
There is NO difference in benefits, since each plan is standardized by the federal government. That means you can switch carriers to save money without sacrificing the benefits you’ve come to love.
However, underwriting can be a concern, which leads us to…
Step 4: Be mindful of health concerns.
You can only switch Medigap plans if you’re healthy enough to pass medical underwriting. Let your agent know if you have any health concerns or have been hospitalized recently for any reason.
Don’t get discouraged – some carriers accept conditions that others don’t, and sometimes, we can find a carrier that will accept you.
In addition, if you’re not able to pass medical underwriting at all, we can pivot to Medicare Advantage products.
For example, the Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) has no health questions, and it’s one of our favorite options! An MSA is a $0 premium health plan combined with high-deductible health coverage and a special medical savings account.
Money is deposited into your account, and you decide what healthcare services to spend it on. There are no provider networks, and once you reach your plan deductible, 100% of your Medicare-covered expenses are paid for.
So rest assured that if you can’t save money by switching Medigap plans, we always have a backup plan in place for you!
Step 5: Take advantage of household discounts.
Most Medicare Supplement carriers offer something called a household discount.
The Medigap Household Discount is a percentage off your Medicare Supplement premium, and it’s generally for two spouses who hold a Medicare Supplement with the same company at the same time. However, the discount requirements vary by carrier and state.
There are companies that will offer a household discount even if your spouse or partner doesn’t have a policy – they just have to live with you! Some companies don’t even require that person to be a spouse or partner – they will give you a discount just for having a roommate over the age of 18.
Household discounts typically range from 1-12%, but the average would be about 7% off.
That means that a 70-year old living in Illinois could save over $104 on a Plan F in just 1 year! Hey, a discount never hurt anyone, did it?
Step 6: Don’t be fooled by fancy mailers and flyers.
The “big” names in insurance spend millions of dollars on marketing, and that’s why they can charge more for a Medicare Supplement plan and get away with it.
Remember when we said that plans are standardized by the federal government? That means that it doesn’t matter if you buy a plan from a well-known company or not – your benefits will be the same no matter who you choose.
Don’t be fooled by fancy mailers asking you to sign up for a Medigap plan on the spot. Many large companies spend millions on mailers and flyers, because they know a certain percentage of seniors will sign up for their plan without consulting with an agent.
Don’t make that mistake! The biggest names in insurance are overcharging consumers for Medigap plans to the tune of hundreds – even thousands – of dollars per year.
Before responding to any marketing mailers or flyers sent to you by big-name insurance companies, consult with an agent here at Medicare Allies to see if they are really offering a great price.
Chances are, you could save a lot of money by simply looking at the other options.
Are You Overpaying for Your Medicare Supplement?
Whether you’re brand new to Medicare or you’ve been enrolled for years, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion.
We’re honest and no-pressure, so if you have the best plan for you, we’ll happily tell you so! But if you’re overpaying for your Medicare Supplement benefits, we’ll let you know and present you with your options.
If you’ve been wanting a second opinion on your Medicare plan, we can help. Call us at 833-801-7999 today, or email us by visiting our Get a Quote page. We look forward to meeting you and helping you!
Our team of dedicated, licensed agents can help you as little or as much as you need. Whether it’s answering a few questions about Medicare or creating a comprehensive Medicare Planner with you, we are your Medicare Allies.