Let’s Start With The Bottom Line:
- Medicare Supplement plans have Federally-standardized coverage.
- All plans pay claims through the Medicare “crossover” and can be used at any doctor/hospital.
- Prices vary considerably – some companies are as much as 2x the premium of other companies for the exact same benefits.
- Rates are dependent on your age, zip code, and gender.
- Some companies offer household discounts, and both individuals having the same company for coverage is not always a prerequisite for receiving these discounts.
- There is not an annual enrollment period for Medicare Supplement plans (contrary to popular misconception). You can enroll in, change, or get out of a Medicare supplement plan at any time, but you may – depending on your situation – have to qualify medically to get a plan or change your plan.
- It is crucial to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan when first eligible (when you turn 65 or sign up for Part B). If you delay enrollment OR enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you typically would have to qualify medically to get a supplement plan at a later time.
- Current Medicare supplement rates cannot always be published online, but you can compare Medicare Supplement plans for your area here: Medicare supplement quotes by email
Medicare Supplement plans are plans that are designed to fill in the “gaps” in “original Medicare”. The plans are Federally-standaridzed; that is, insurance companies are required to follow the set-forth plan outlines from the Federal Government. Here is the chart that shows what the standardized plans cover: Medigap coverage chart.
While there are ten standardized plans, most companies only offer a handful of the plans in each area (usually no more than 3-4). Prices can vary considerably from one company to the next, despite the coverage being the exact same.
In addition to the coverage being Federally-standardized on Medicare supplement plans, two other vital aspects are identical as well: claim payments and doctor acceptance.
Medicare Supplement plans pay claims through the Medicare “crossover” system, which standardizes claim payment amounts and timing of claim payments. So, this factor is negligible when comparing Medicare supplement plans.
Also, Medicare supplement plans can be used at any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare nationwide. There are no networks for specific Medicare supplement companies.
Because of the standardization of coverage, claim payments and doctor acceptance, price is the primary factor when comparing Medicare supplement plans [Compare Medicare supplement rates for your area].
Medicare supplement rates are based on your age, zip code and gender. Some companies do offer household discounts for people living in the same household and having the same plan. Now, there are even some companies that extend the household discount to individuals in the same household, regardless of whether or not both have the same company or plan.
One commonly held misconception around Medicare Supplement plans is regarding the end-of-year Medicare enrollment period. This enrollment period, called the annual election period, does not pertain to Medicare Supplements at all – it is for Medicare Part D and Medicare replacement plans like Medicare Advantage. You can enroll in, change, or get out of a Medicare supplement plan at any time.
There are, however, some considerations related to when you can sign up or a plan. You should enroll when you are first eligible through turning 65 or going on Medicare Part B. If you do not do it when first eligible, or if you elect a Medicare Advantage plan initially, you typically have to qualify medically to get a plan at a later time.