Compare Medicare health plans

Required information for accurate health plan quotes


Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant). Generally, there are two tracks for the Medicare consumer: Original Medicare/Medicare Supplement Insurance and Medicare Advantage Insurance.

What is the difference between Original Medicare/Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage Insurance?

A Medicare Advantage policy bundles all Medicare benefits, plus additional benefits; a Medicare supplement policy is a supplement to Original Medicare. It is illegal to be sold both. You can only have one or the other.

Some Medicare Advantage plans include extra benefits not covered by Original Medicare such as vision, hearing, or dental. Medicare Supplement plans also called Medigap plans don’t typically cover long-term care, vision or dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, or private-duty nursing.

Original Medicare/Medicare Supplement Insurance

A plan to fill the gaps in Medicare

When you turn age 65 and qualify for Medicare, you get coverage for a range of hospital and medical expenses. But the federal health insurance program doesn’t include benefits for all of your healthcare costs and, of course, you’ll still be on the hook for your deductible and coinsurance. That’s why you’ll want to consider Medicare supplement insurance.

Medicare supplement plans can help reduce what you pay out-of-pocket for items and services that Medicare doesn’t cover. The different plans are lettered A through N (more on that later), each offering a different blend of benefits.

What is Medicare supplement insurance?

Medicare supplement insurance is designed as extra coverage to help pay for some of the healthcare costs Medicare doesn’t cover. Supplement plan benefits include coinsurance and deductible amounts for Medicare Part A and Part B as well as foreign travel emergency benefits. Which specific benefits you receive with your Medicare supplement insurance will depend on which policy you choose.

Medicare supplement insurance is also known as Medigap because it fills the “gaps” in Medicare coverage.

What Medicare supplement insurance isn’t

Medigap plans are not the same as Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicaid, employer or union plans, TRICARE, veterans’ benefits, long-term care insurance, and Indian Health Service, tribal, and Urban Indian Health plans.

Medicare 101

Before we dive much deeper into the ins and outs of Medicare supplement plans, it will be helpful to understand some basics related to Medicare.

Original Medicare comes in three main parts (Part C is Medicare Advantage):
Part A (hospital insurance) helps cover inpatient care, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and home healthcare.
Part B (medical insurance) helps cover outpatient care, home healthcare, services from doctors and other healthcare providers, durable medical equipment, and many preventive care services.
Part D (prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs; plans A and B do not include prescription drugs.

Together, Part A and Part B are known as Original Medicare. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 added Part D for prescription drugs that can be added as a stand alone insurance plan.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan(Part C), you cannot enroll in a Medicare supplement plan.

What do Medicare supplement plans cover?

Medicare supplement policies are standardized under federal and state laws. They must offer the same core benefits. Through a federal waiver, three states standardize their policies differently than the rest of the U.S.; these states include Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Standardized Medigap plans are labeled A through N; however, plans E, H, I, and J are no longer open to new enrollees. Benefits typically covered by Medigap plans include a combination of the following, which can be compared in detail at

  • Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are used up
  • Part B coinsurance or copayment
  • Blood (first 3 payments)
  • Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment
  • Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
  • Part A deductible
  • Part B deductible
  • Part B excess charge
  • Foreign travel exchange (up to plan limits)

You may be interested to know that standard Medigap plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide foreign travel emergency healthcare benefits—plans E, H, I, and J do as well but are no longer sold to new enrollees and in 2020 plans C and F will no longer be sold to new enrollees. These plans will cover foreign travel emergency care if it begins in the first 60 days of your trip and Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover the care; these plans pay 80% of the billed charges for medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 annual deductible.

Would a person have more than one Medicare supplement policy?

No. You will select one plan. It is also important to know that Medigap plans only cover one person. If your spouse also needs coverage, they will need their own policy.

Who can buy Medicare supplement insurance … and when?

Anyone who is Medicare-eligible and not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can buy a Medigap plan. There are, however, specific times during which you can buy a Medicare supplement policy. The best time is during your 6 month Medigap open enrollment period which begins the month that you turn 65. During this time period, you are guaranteed coverage and at the same rate as anyone else in good health.

You may be able to buy Medicare supplement insurance outside of the open enrollment period, but you are not guaranteed coverage. Medicare supplement policies may be subject to underwriting, which means your application may be denied or you may be charged more based on your health. There are some exceptions to this rule; for instance, you may be able to provide evidence that you’re entitled to a guaranteed issue right. You can learn more about Medigap eligibility during and outside of open enrollment at

Medigap plans are guaranteed renewable, regardless of whether or not your health remains the same. That means an insurance company can’t typically drop you. Exceptions include not making premium payments on time or providing false information on your application. You can cancel your Medigap policy by contacting your insurance company.

Already have Medicare Advantage? You can’t enroll in a Medicare supplement policy at the same time. It is illegal for insurance companies to sell you one if you have the other. If you are moving from a Medicare Advantage plan to a Medicare supplement plan, do not cancel your coverage until you are sure you have been approved.

How much does Medicare supplement insurance cost?

The cost of Medicare supplement policies is usually the only real difference between those of the same letter. The premium you pay may be based on any of the following factors:

  • What type of plan you buy (generally, the higher the level of benefits you select, the higher the monthly premium)
  • Your insurance company
  • Your age at the time of application as well as your age as you get older
  • Where you live

Rates can vary greatly from one region to the next. One analysis found that monthly premiums for Medigap Plan F averaged as high as $162.25 in Massachusetts and as low as $109.16 a month in Hawaii.

You’ll want to gather quotes for the Medicare supplement policies you’re considering to see what coverage could cost you.

Can you buy Medicare supplement plans online?

Yes. Private companies sell Medicare supplement insurance, and you can get a quote and fill out an application online. Not every company that sells Medigap plans will sell every Medigap plan available. They must all offer Medigap Plan A along with Plan C or Plan F.

How to compare and choose Medicare supplement plans

The only real difference between Medigap policies is typically price. As discussed earlier, Medicare supplement plans of the same letter must offer the same benefits—you can get a basic overview at or read about plan details at insurance company websites. Some plans will offer additional benefits. Once you decide which letter plan you want, rates set by the companies selling them will be the key differentiator.

Waiting periods are one more thing to consider. While a company can’t deny you coverage during your initial enrollment period, regardless of pre-existing conditions, it can impose a waiting period of up to six months for pre-existing conditions that were treated or diagnosed six months before your enrollment in the Medigap policy plan. During this time the company will not pay out-of-pocket costs for these conditions; Original Medicare will continue to provide benefits, but you will be responsible for Medicare coinsurance or copayment amounts.

Make sure that the plan you’re considering is definitely a Medicare supplement plan. Insurance companies must clearly identify Medigap plans as Medicare Supplement Insurance on the front.

Again, not all companies that sell Medigap plans sell all Medigap plans available.

Is a Medigap policy right for you?

Does everyone on Original Medicare need a Medicare supplement policy as well? Choosing to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan is an individual decision, of course. If you find the premium affordable, it can be a way to help with out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Medicare as you get older and require more healthcare.

It would seem more Medicare beneficiaries are enrolling in Medicare supplement policies. An AHIP report on the state of Medigap showed that 13.1 million people had enrolled in Medigap plans as of December 2016—an increase from 12.3 million in the prior year.

Enrollees are not evenly distributed across the U.S. Another report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Medigap enrollees accounted for 3% all Medicare beneficiaries in Hawaii and 51% in Kansas.

The best way to decide if Medicare supplement insurance is right for you is to explore and compare your options. Make this research a part of your retirement planning, before you turn age 65 and enroll in Medicare. Gather quotes. Consider your ability to cover out-of-pocket healthcare expenses on your own. Then decide what best meets your healthcare and financial needs month to month and in the long term.

If you have questions about Medigap plans, contact the insurance company that sells the coverage you’re considering or a licensed health insurance agent.

Learn More About Medicare

  • how to prepare for your aging parents' future, family walking together and smiling
    Retirement is one of life’s biggest milestones. But with the celebration comes challenging decisions to make before and during retirement: finances, living situations, healthcare, and insurance, to name a few. And if you’re helping your parents with their retirement planning, you might already be completing online forms, making calls, and supporting them with these decisions that impact their futures as retirees. The planning can be overwhelming, so try breaking it down into four buckets: financial planning, healthcare, living arrangements and health insurance. With these buckets in mind, you'll need to ask things like: What will my parents' monthly income and budget look like? Is the money sufficient to maintain a comfortable standard of living? Are there current or impending health concerns to plan for? Are there plans for relocation after retirement? Will long-term care or home health care be needed? Plan ahead with these four tips 1. Face the facts with financial planning Though many baby boomers made sound financial retirement plans, nearly 50% did not. And still, the economic crash of 2008 challenged people's savings accounts - even those who planned ahead. Those who wisely chose conservative retirement portfolios feel a pinch because many will outlive their investments. So inevitably: People are working longer than expected. In fact, nearly 11 million people over the age of 65 will continue in the workforce because they simply cannot afford to retire. But aside from working longer, your parents may want to improve their financial situation in the following ways: Downsize their home. A smaller home gives your parents more money back in their pockets. A smaller home is also easier to navigate and keep clean. Make lifestyle changes. Eliminating a second car or relocating to an area where the cost-of-living is lower are some things retirees are doing to improve their financial situation. Some also find that volunteering helps fill time that would otherwise consume income. Move in with their children. This generally happens only after they have no alternative. But know that this decision takes careful planning and patience. Sign up for Medicaid. If seniors have a very low retirement income, they may qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. This will be especially helpful if they face costly medical care and potential long term care. Shop for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. There are advantages to both plan types, but a senior can only enroll in one or the other. That said, your parents can make individual choices so that one might have Medicare Advantage, while the other has a supplemental policy. These plans can help seniors to. better manage health care costs. 2. Talk to your parents' about their health Most people have a pretty good idea of the health concerns they'll face as they age. As examples, it's likely that life-long smokers know they have a higher-than-average risk of developing lung disease, cancer, or heart conditions. Someone who is overweight and inactive knows their risk of diabetes is higher. And people with a family history of certain cancers know their personal risk is higher. Know that it's OK to discuss potential and existing health concerns with your parents now before they become unmanageable later in life. While the conversation might be uncomfortable, it's a necessary step in the planning process. 3. Discuss living arrangements When the time is right, you may want to talk with your parents about long-term care, home health care, or other living arrangements, depending on their situation. Long-term care The first thing to know: Medicare does not cover long-term care. But some services associated with long-term care may be covered. Long-term care is for those who are disabled or have chronic conditions, which prevent them from managing many of their daily needs including: Preparing meals Bathing/showering Getting dressed Housekeeping Transportation Though Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, Medicaid does. There are also separate long-term care insurance plans available for purchase. But know that the right time to get this coverage is before it's needed. Home health care Home health care includes medical and non-medical assistance in your own home. For instance, bathing assistance and performing simple chores around the home like washing dishes may be provided by home health care providers. Just don't ask them to repair your ceiling fan. For good reason, home health care is an option that's on the rise and is expected to keep growing. Thanks to the Chronic Care Act of 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has authorized expanding some home health care coverage in 2020 via Medicare Advantage plans - a good step if you or your parents will need these services. One word of caution: Changes continue to be made to the increasingly popular Medicare Advantage program, so you'll want to pay attention to these important changes. Relocation If your parents are in good health, you may still want to give them food for thought if they plan to relocate to a warmer, sunnier state. For instance, Original Medicare and Medigap coverage will be unaffected as those are not tied to specific service areas. On the other hand, Medicare Advantage and Part D are mostly tied to specific service areas so a plan change may be necessary. That said, relocation may be beneficial, just be sure to consult with a health insurance agent first. Ask your parents to move in Though it can be a sensitive situation, you may opt to have your parents live with you during their retirement. But be sure to think of things like ways to help them with mobility, especially as they age. For example, you might need to install wheelchair ramps, safety rails in shower stalls, or other safety precautions. Some of these features may be covered by Medicare, so consider these options when looking into Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement policies for your parents. 4. Understand health insurance: Medicaid vs. Medicare options Insurance is all about protection and peace of mind. And although no one can predict the future, having a sound insurance policy in place can protect your aging parents (and you) from potential financial distress. The simple fact is that Original Medicare does not cover everything and most seniors will need more. That is why Part C (Medicare Advantage), Part D and various Medicare supplements were developed. And some may qualify for dual-enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid. That's because Medicare is federally administered while Medicaid is provided through the state. If a person or couple fall within certain federally-mandated poverty guidelines, they may qualify for both. This will provide them with 100% coverage at no to very low cost. To see if your parents may qualify for dual-enrollment, visit Medicaid's Seniors & Medicare and Medicaid Enrollees page. You'll find charts that show income levels for qualifying by region. If your parents qualify, you won't have to shop for Medigap plans. In other words: There's no need for a supplemental policy. So if you're helping your parents, you'll want to first look at their current Medicare plans to see if they're cost-effective and fit with their specific health needs. You will also want to list all sources of income. If they do not have one, help them create a budget so that you can know what they can afford and perhaps where they may need to make changes. Today there are far more options available. Many seniors are not as comfortable using the Internet as their children are. You can help them in a huge way by simply helping then navigate the web and doing research with them. Another way to help is by making a call for them to a licensed agent who can help. Talk to an agent about Medicare options Whether they're months away from retirement or already retired, our appointed licensed Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement agents are available to discuss options with you today. They can help you learn about plans in your area or any area your parents may be planning to move. So why not save time and consult with an agent about Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plans? He or she will help you navigate your options to make an informed choice. The sooner you help your aging parents plan for the future, the better. After all, you and your parents don't have to be alone when planning for retirement expenses.
    Read More »
  • nine ways to save on healthcare costs during retirement, group of retirees smiling and playing football
    The average cost of healthcare for seniors in retirement, including insurance premiums and cost shares like copays or deductibles, is about $499 per month. In other words: The cost of healthcare generally consumes just over one-third of many retiree's income. This is a staggering statistic given that the average Social Security benefit is only $1,470 per month. That's why finding ways to save on healthcare costs during your retirement should be top of mind. Yes, a good diet and exercise regimen are a key ingredient to staying healthy, but there are other things you can do. Consider these nine tips. 1. Take care of your health Finding ways to improve your general health and wellness can lower your out-of-pocket health care costs. After all, fewer trips to the doctor means fewer copays and less money spent on healthcare. Try these four basic tips to improve your overall health after age 60: Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water. Think cucumbers, watermelon and celery. Eat more protein to protect muscle mass. Muscles tend to shrink and weaken as we age, so it's important to fuel yourself with protein, which is especially helpful to prevent slips and falls. Don't forget to strength train. Strength training burns calories and protects your muscles. Work with your new metabolism. It's no secret that you have to eat differently than you did in your 20s. Eating smaller meals is often best for maintaining higher energy levels and general wellness. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your diet or exercise regimen. 2. Reduce stress Stress often increases with age, leading to a host of health problems. For example, you might worry about your high healthcare costs or becoming a potential burden to your children. Finding ways to lower your stress can go a long way. There are many simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life. Try things like having a set routine each day, spending more time with friends and family, and reducing your caffeine intake. And don't forget to laugh more. 3. Use your benefits It may sound contradictory, but going to the doctor can ultimately lower your healthcare costs. Most insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans, come with certain wellness benefits. Getting regular physicals and patient-specific tests can uncover minor health problems before they become major ones. Let's say a man gets a routine PSA blood test done, which reveals the possibility of low-grade prostate cancer. Early intervention makes the treatment cost far less early on, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor and fewer copays. In other words: lower cost. 4. Save money on medications The cost of medications for seniors continues to rise at an alarming rate. So naturally, drug costs may be a concern for you. One of the simplest ways to save is to find the right Medicare Part D plan for you. Start by comparing quotes and talking to an insurance agent who is willing to research the medications you take. The right agent will have knowledge of all the pharmacies close to your home and plans available in your area. He or she can also help you identify ways to save on your prescriptions. 5. Know the difference between emergency care and urgent care Some people don't know the difference between emergency care and urgent care. But knowing which option to use in a given situation can save you money: Emergency room visits can cost far more than urgent care center visits. Your initial reaction might be to go to the ER when you need medical treatment but can't see your primary care doctor. But in many cases, an urgent care facility will serve you just as well at a lower cost. Start by keeping a list of nearby ERs and urgent care centers handy. An urgent care visit is good for a minor illness or injury, but if your condition is life-threatening, always go to the ER. Many Medicare Advantage insurance plans also include a "phone-a-nurse" or "phone-a-doctor" benefit, which can serve the same purpose. 6. Request outpatient services when possible Did you know that some inpatient procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis? Often, doctors choose to have a procedure performed on an inpatient basis, simply for the convenience of the patient and the medical staff. Many procedures do require a medically supervised period of recovery, but not all of them. The bottom line: There's nothing wrong with asking your doctor if a procedure can be performed in an outpatient clinic rather than at the hospital. If so, the savings can be significant. 7. Choose your doctors wisely Just because a physician or facility accepts Medicare doesn't mean that your costs will be controlled. There are two things to consider when choosing a healthcare provider who takes Medicare patients: First, check if the provider accepts assignment. This means that the provider has agreed to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for services. If your provider doesn't accept assignment, then your out-of-pocket costs may be higher. Second, choose the right doctor for you. The ideal provider has specialized experience with those age 65 and over, which can save you repeated visits to the doctor. One way to shop around for doctors and specialists is through the physician compare feature on You can use this tool to comparing providers in your area, or you may opt to discuss the topic with a licensed insurance agent. Regardless of which option you choose, shopping around for the right provider might save you money. 8. Use a health savings account (HSA) Whether you're approaching retirement or already retired, you may have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer (or previous employer). Using an HSA can save you money because your contributions are pre-tax dollars and can accrue interest. And unlike a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), the HSA is owned by you, so it can carry over into your retirement. And there is no deadline on when you can spend the funds. 9. Find the right Medicare plan for you Perhaps the single best way to save money on healthcare during retirement is to find the right health insurance plan for you, like a Medicare Supplement plan. Your ideal Medicare insurance plan will include ways to help you improve your overall health. As examples, most plans offer smoking cessation programs at low to no cost. A Medicare Advantage plan can also lower your stress by helping you to better manage prescription costs, copays and other health concerns. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all health insurance plan, so talk to your licensed health insurance agent to find the right set of plans for you. You can save on healthcare costs during retirement As a retiree you might have questions about ways to save on healthcare costs. Aside from controlling costs, the most common questions center on the differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Supplemental and Medicare Advantage plans. So if you have questions, why not request a consultation with a licensed agent today? We're here to help you along the way.
    Read More »

See More Articles