July 2nd, 2010 at 4:40 am
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Signing On to Medicare Part 3: Supplemental Policies

by Carol Bursack

If you’ve been following my personal journey of signing up for Medicare, your stomach may feel as though you’ve had too much alphabet soup, but please hang in. It does get easier once we get educated.

Part 1 of this series addressed getting signed up for the basic Medicare Part A. That was harder for me than most people, as I’m not retiring, but I got it done. Part 2 was signing up for Medicare Part B, which carries a premium. This third post is about the supplemental insurance, sometimes called “Medigap,” to beef up coverage that Medicare Parts A and B don’t give us.

We have many choices here. Medicare Supplement Plan A, Plan C and Plan F – G and H, I believe, are unfolding as I write – include different coverage for the co-pays left from Medicare Parts A and B. Your supplemental policy, depending on the one you choose, pays part or all of these co-pays. The least coverage, Plan A, comes with the lowest premium. The best coverage (presently) is Plan F, which has the highest premium.

Since the premiums aren’t huge, considering what I’ve paid in the past for health insurance, I chose Plan F. I won’t give you numbers here, as there are too many variables, but you can find out what you need on the Medicare site.

Plan F will cover most costs Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover, aside from prescription drug coverage which we’ll cover next in Part 4 of this series. (Please excuse me while shudder at adding more “parts and numbers,” but all of this was too much for one blog post).

You can choose your supplemental plan, which is not required, by going to www.Medicare.gov. There, you’ll put in your Medicare information and your Zip code. You’ll be taken to a page with your choices. These policies are similar across the nation, so I let my choice be governed by the ranking given to the company as to how well they pay. This is about trusting the company you choose, so choose carefully.

There is something called Medicare Advantage. This is a Medicare policy that has all kinds of perks, but is run by private companies with some government subsidies. Some people love their Medicare Advantage.

I have seen enough companies cut and run from my state to want to go that route. Medicare Advantage will likely take some cuts to subsidies, as this is an elite policy. The idea is to make Medicare a more even playing field for all. This could, in my opinion, lead to more companies discontinuing that coverage.

This information is just a personal observation, and I’m not a Medicare expert. I’m just going by observation, hearsay and newsletters from the insurance department of my state, where I’ve seen some companies go off the list through the last four or five years. Everyone’s needs are different, so you may want to ask an insurance agent you trust, preferably one who sells for many companies, for an honest look at Medicare Advantage. It could be right for you.

I’ll cover Medicare Part D, which is prescription drug coverage, in Part 4 of this series. I’ll also give you some tips about seniors who are watching out for Medicare fraud, which hurts the whole program and all seniors.

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