Basic Medicare insurance provides important coverage, but nearly all Medicare recipients find that they need one or more supplement plans as well. So if you’re trying to figure out what Medicare supplement plan you need or just want to get a better understanding of this important part of your financial life, here’s some clear direction that will help you understand and perhaps find that supplement coverage that’s just right for you.
Medicare insurance is made up of four basic parts:
- Part A: inpatient and hospital coverage
- Part B: outpatient, general medical coverage
- Part C: Medicare Advantage, which is an alternate means for receiving Medicare benefits
- Part D: covers prescription drug costs
The first thing you need to know about Medicare is that while it does provide good basic insurance coverage, it won’t cover ALL of your medical costs. And that’s why most people find it necessary to buy a supplemental insurance plan. They fill in the gap between what basic Medicare covers and the medical expenses that you’d otherwise—without a supplement plan—have to pay for out of pocket. For that reason, many insurance providers refer to Medicare supplement plans as “Medigap” policies, and these policies can help you cover other expenses like co-pays and deductibles or co-insurance for hospice or skilled nursing care.
How To Find The Right Medicare Supplement Plan
Again, basic Medicare plans cover a lot, but not everything; so depending on your personal situation and health needs, you may be able to get by with a single Medicare supplement plan, or you might need two or three.
Let’s go over four basic steps to finding the right Medicare supplement for you:
- The first step, not surprisingly, is to analyze your options. Since there are many Medicare supplement plans, step one entails learning about the various options available from the point of view of your own personal health and your own financial situation.
- Step 2 is about learning the different prices of the policies. Once you pick a plan, shop around. The plans are standardized, but prices vary widely.
- Step 3 consulting with a professional. Although Medicare supplement plans are standardized and can be used wherever Medicare is available, coverage can differ from one market to the next, so it can be tricky to understand.
- Step 4—Pick a plan and get covered. Don’t procrastinate!
Medicare Supplement Plan Pricing
One of the most important concerns with Medicare supplement plans is pricing, which is the amount you pay for the monthly premium. I’ll try to break that down for you. One thing to keep in mind: the plan with the lowest initial premium isn’t automatically your best deal. Why not? Because although some may start off with a lower premium, they could become more expensive over time as the premiums rise. Remember, you really never get something for nothing.
There are three different pricing structures for Medicare supplement plans:
- Community-rated, where monthly premiums are the same for everyone, regardless of age and premiums may increase naturally as a result of various factors such as inflation.
- Age-Issue rated, where premiums are based on your age at the time you purchase the plan, so the younger you are at the time of purchase, the lower your premium will be.
- Age-Attained rated, where premiums are based on your current age and go up as you get older. This pricing plan can, therefore, eventually end up being the most expensive, as the premiums can increase significantly as you approach age 80, 90, or 100.
As you contemplate these different choices, you will quickly learn a secret—there is no one magic Medicare plan that will perfectly suit both your budget and cover all of your needs. The reality is that you may end up needing several supplemental plans to cover what Medicare does not.
That’s why the first step is to analyze your options, and it’s first on the list for a reason. You will, and should, spend most of your time looking at all the different options.
Speak With A Professional
You should also consider consulting with a qualified insurance professional who specializes in Medicare coverage. There’s no reason for you to feel embarrassed about needing some help in navigating your way through Medicare coverage. Medicare and all of its available options can get very complicated and subsequently, finding the right supplement to fill in the coverage gaps can be tricky.
Now that we’ve gone through your basic steps before selecting a plan, let’s look at some providers of these supplement plans. These are not recommendations, just an initial list to get you started. Visit our website, Stevepomeranz.com for the entire list, and while you’re there, sign up for our weekly update which includes all the material on our show every week, in case you miss an episode.
United Medicare Advisors
United Medicare Advisors is a Medicare supplement provider that can help you discover the plans available to you. UMA works across 45 states, with nearly 30 Medicare insurance providers. So, chances are, UMA can probably help you access a supplement plan that will work well for you. UMA works with companies such as Gerber, Humana, and Sterling.
UMA generally asks you for your work history and some basic information about income and earnings, so that they can give you the most accurate rates possible.
To get a personalized set of plan options and a quote on rates, visit UMA by clicking here.
Cigna is a heavyweight in the insurance community, a Fortune 500 company serving more than 95 million customers worldwide. Cigna’s Medicare supplement plans are underwritten by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Loyal American Life Insurance Company, and American Retirement Life Insurance Company.
The positives with Cigna are numerous, not the least of which is the fact that every single one of their supplemental plans can be purchased directly through Cigna’s website. Cigna is available in 38 states, but not every supplement plan they offer may be available in your area.
Cigna offers plenty of supplemental insurance plans, as well as options that go beyond traditional Medicare supplement plans. These include options such as cancer treatment and heart attack and stroke coverage plans. Cigna also offers the option of Medicare Advantage for people who prefer a one-plan solution over Medicare plus a Medicare supplement.
Mutual Of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha was picked to administer plans A and B through Medicare starting in 1966, and it has continued to work in conjunction with all other Medicare providers ever since.
Mutual of Omaha has Medicare supplement plans available to people aged 65 or older and also offers supplemental coverage to individuals under 65 years of age who have a qualifying disability.
Premiums vary with age, sex, and use of tobacco products.
Humana is another Fortune 500 company, one that provides some 13 million people with insurance every year. Humana has Medicare plans A through N, though availability depends on what state you live in. Humana offers some unique selling points in the form of “perks” with coverage that other providers typically either don’t offer or charge an additional fee for.
The available perks include:
- The “Silver Sneakers” fitness program designed specifically for seniors
- 24/7 telephone access to a registered nurse
- MyHumana Savings Program, which offers discounts on glasses and contacts, eye exams, over-the-counter medications, and more
- Discounts for automatically paying premiums with a credit card or electronic bank draft
A Final Word
Medicare supplement coverage may be one of the most important decisions—both for your health and your finances—that you make during retirement. Talk with a representative from a qualified provider in order to carefully explore all your options. Before making a decision, thoroughly examine all the costs and benefits of a Medicare supplement plan in writing. You might even want to have a trusted friend or relative or your financial advisor review the plan with you to see if they think it suits you well. There are lots of different plans available, and the right one can significantly reduce your medical expenses.
Here’s to your good health!
Opinions expressed are those of the author’s and not necessarily United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. There are no investment strategies that guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however, their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital. Medicare Supplement insurance is available to those age 65 and older enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B and in some states to those under age 65 eligible for Medicare due to disability or End Stage Renal disease. Medicare Supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. Coverage may be limited to Medicare-eligible expenses. Benefits vary by insurance plan and the premium will vary with the amount of benefits selected. Depending on the insurance plan chosen, you may be responsible for deductibles and coinsurance before benefits are payable. These policies have exclusions and limitations; please call your agent/producer for complete details of coverage and costs.