Choosing a Medigap Policy – 2013 Edition

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 2013 edition of Choosing a Medigap Policy is a vital source of information for anyone wanting to make the most informed decisions about Medicare supplement plans

With nearly 50 pages of information ranging from the basic “What is a Medigap policy?” to details about all 10 current Medigap plans and rights and precautions every Medigap policyholder ought to know about, Choosing a Medigap Policy will help answer many questions you may have about Medicare supplements and the Medicare program in general.

As the Choosing a Medigap Policy guide points out, all 10 current Medicare supplement plans are standardized across the country, although Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin differ in their standardization. This means that, with few exceptions, Medigap Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N are the same wherever you reside in the United States. Almost anywhere you may be, for example, Plan A provides the most basic set of benefits, while Medigap Plan F provides the same comprehensive benefits designed to fill all the high-risk gaps in Original Medicare, virtually eliminating out-of-pocket costs in most cases.

It is important to note, however, as Choosing a Medigap Policy points out on page 13, “Different insurance companies may charge different premiums for the exact same policy.”

Comparing Medigap Plans and Rates

Carefully investigating what each Medigap plan offers is an important step toward choosing the right policy. But deciding whether your needs will be best served by Plan F, Plan G, or another Medigap option is only the beginning.

Just as important as determining the degree of coverage you need is finding the best rate for your preferred plan.

When shopping for a Medigap policy, you should always be aware that, while competing companies are required by law to provide the same coverage for the same Medigap letter plan, those companies can set their own rates for those same plans. As a result, half a dozen different companies offering the same Medicare supplement plan in your area may well charge half a dozen different rates for the same coverage. Because those rates can vary widely, failing to shop carefully for the best rate can cost you a great deal of money.

Generally speaking, the best way to keep your rates as low as possible is to stay away from tobacco and shop the market for the best rates for Medigap plans available in your area.

What is the ideal time to purchase a Medigap plan?

As Choosing a Medigap Policy states on page 14, the best time to purchase a Medicare supplement plan is during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, a six-month period beginning the first day of the month in which you are 65 or older and first enrolled in Medicare Part B. Your Medigap Open Enrollment Period is the best time to join a Medigap plan because you have guaranteed issue rights during this entire six-month period. Guaranteed issue means that no company can deny you any Medigap policy it sells, regardless of your medical history or any pre-existing conditions. If your pre-existing condition was diagnosed or treated within six months of the date your policy takes effect, however, the company may impose a waiting period of up to six months before your pre-existing condition will be covered.

If your Medigap Open Enrollment Period has already passed, you can still apply for a Medigap policy at any time. However, medical underwriting is likely to apply, and you may not be able to get the plan of your choice.

If you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and want to switch to a Medigap plan, you must disenrol from your Medicare Advantage before enrolling in a Medicare supplement. Annually, you have the opportunity to disenroll from Medicare Advantage during the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 Medicare Open Enrollment Period and the Jan. 1-Feb. 14 Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period.

After you enroll in a new Medicare supplement plan, your policy will be guaranteed renewable. As Choosing a Medigap Policy points out on page 36, this means that as long as you continue to pay your policy premiums, you can never be dropped from your plan due to health reasons.

Choosing a Medigap Policy also offers useful information about Medicare SELECT; Medigap pricing methods; and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, which combine well with Medicare supplement plans to provide the best in comprehensive coverage.

Investigating Medigap coverage can be a vital step in protecting your health and your finances—and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2013 edition of Choosing a Medigap Policy is a valuable resource to help you make wise decisions about your Medicare and Medigap options.

Choosing a Medigap Policy – 2013 Edition © 2014

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