Choosing the Best Medicare Supplement Plan for Your Loved One

Mature woman helping elderly mother with paperwork
December 9th, 2014

It’s probably no surprise to you that paying for care can be very expensive. When providing caregiving support, you may even find that you are paying many of your loved one’s medical bills out of your own pocket. A Medicare supplement plan, also known as Medigap insurance, can fill the gaps left by traditional Medicare. Depending on the plan, it can lower copayments and coinsurance, and it may even offer benefits that extend above and beyond Medicare coverage.

About Medigap Plans

A Medicare supplement plan is a private insurance policy that works alongside traditional Medicare. Your loved one will pay a monthly premium for such policies, but she will receive additional benefits that are not offered through Medicare.

There are 10 benefits packages available to choose from, labeled as the letters A through D, F, G, and K through N. While the available plans vary by state (and sometimes by region within the state), Medicare sets strict rules about what each plan covers. This means all insurance companies who offer a Medigap Plan F, for example, must offer the same coverage and benefits.

Once you determine which plan best fits your loved one’s needs, you will still need to choose which private insurer to use. Help your senior make this choice based on premium price, personal preference, or a number of other factors.

When your senior first applies for Medigap insurance, she has a six-month open enrollment period for selecting a plan. If her policy doesn’t end up being the best fit, she may have the option to change it.

Choosing a Policy

The 10 Medicare supplement plans vary widely in benefits and coverage levels. Plans F and C, the two most popular plans according to the Medicare publication Choosing a Medigap Policy, offer the most comprehensive benefits. They also typically have the most expensive premiums. On the opposite end of the spectrum are plans M and N, which are designed for healthy seniors who have fewer healthcare needs and therefore typically have the least expensive premiums. The other six plans fall in between.

Tips for getting the best policy for your senior’s needs while saving the most money include:

  • Consider both your loved one’s current health and family history. For example, if there is a history of illness that requires long-term care, she may want to look for a policy that offers extra benefits for in-home skilled nursing help.
  • Analyze all available plans. The Medicare website offers tools to help you compare plans. Among these tools, you’ll find a chart that shows what each plan covers, as well as an estimate of what the monthly premium may cost in your senior’s area.
  • Remember that all Medigap plans with the same letter offer the same coverage. Once you help your senior choose the best plan for his needs, you can help him choose an insurance company based on price.
  • Consider an issue-age-rated or community-rated policy to save the most money. These policies may cost more right now, but the cheaper attained-age-rated policies will increase in price as your loved one ages.

If your loved one has traditional Medicare coverage, paying extra for a Medigap policy may be worthwhile. These supplemental plans help cover the cost of deductibles, copayments, coinsurances, and other out-of-pocket payments. By learning how to compare the plans available, you’ll help your loved one choose the plan that best suits her needs and her budget.