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When the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period opened a few weeks ago, I knew not to do it alone. Medicare plans can seem complex and confusing, but with my family to guide me and several websites to educate me on Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap), I found making a choice so much easier than I expected. I want to share what I’ve learned in hopes it helps someone else – maybe you – feel less stressed when shopping for Medicare coverage.
I’ll start with the obvious: Medicare is government health insurance for people 65 or older, and some disabled people can apply for Medicare even if they’re younger than 65. All this time, however, I hadn’t realized that private insurers, not the government, offer Medicare Advantage plans. That’s why I could have either Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, but never both. If I chose Medicare Advantage, I’d get all the benefits of government-administered Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B – and often more.
In some cases, I could find plans with a $0 monthly premium, and an annual limit on my out-of-pocket costs that Original Medicare doesn’t offer. Some plans would give me prescription and health benefits, and zero-dollar deductibles and zero-dollar copays for many services. With other plans, I might also get in-home support services, transportation to and from medical appointments, a gym membership, and hearing aid coverage*.
After learning about Medicare Advantage, it seemed like I’d have to choose between that or standard Medicare. But what about Medigap**? It turns out Medigap is only available if I were to choose Original Medicare, not Medicare Advantage. Medigap would help me pay for out-of-pocket Medicare costs including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
There are 10 types of Medigap plans standardized by the government: A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N. It works differently in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, but that’s all I know since I live in Ohio. What I do know is that Medigap Plan A is the same in Illinois as it is in Indiana, and Medigap Plan G is the same in Alabama as it is in Arkansas. Each plan’s benefits are the same state-by-state. The only difference are the premiums and the insurance carriers that offer them.
I’d now learned the basics, but I still wondered: If I went with Original Medicare and Medigap, how could I choose the best Medigap plan when I had 10 options? That’s why I called a licensed insurance agent for help. My agent told me I might like the combination of Medicare and Medigap Plans C or F. That’s because Plans C and F are the only ones that cover not just Medicare Part A deductible, but Medicare Part B deductible and skilled nursing facility costs.
I was lucky with Medigap too: Although I’d just started my Medicare journey, I became eligible in 2018, so I could choose Medigap Plans C or F if I wanted (people who become eligible for Medicare in 2020 or later can’t apply for plans C or F). Although I wasn’t guaranteed acceptance since I applied more than six months after my 65th birthday and wasn’t yet enrolled in Medicare Part B, if I did get accepted, I could keep my doctor since she accepts Medicare – I didn’t want to leave Dr. Collins’ practice, so this was a huge advantage! And since Medigap plans are guaranteed renewable, I’d only lose coverage for non-payment, not for health reasons.
At this point, I had a comprehensive understanding of each insurance type. Original Medicare is the standard government plan, Medicare Advantage is a private alternative to Original Medicare that often includes extra benefits, and Medigap is a Medicare supplement that could help me cover out-of-pocket costs. Armed with this knowledge, my family and I compared our Medicare options online and spoke with a licensed insurance agent on the phone to enroll. And you too can make a similarly empowered choice.
Now through December 7, if you’re over 65 but not yet enrolled in Medicare, you can apply for – and learn all about – Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement Insurance**. Doing so was super easy despite how worried I was, and with the info I’ve shared here, I hope it will be for you too. Just click here to get started.
*Plan availability varies by region and state. Benefits subject to limitations and annual maximums. Not available with all plans. Transportation to plan-approved locations
**If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or MA-PD plan and want to enroll in a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, you must switch from your current plan into Original Medicare, which you can do during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.
Disclaimer: Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information
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