by Stacy Calloway, Medicare Expert (UnitedHealthcare Medicare Solutions)
So, you’re now 65 and it’s time to determine whether you need insurance to supplement Medicare. Which should you buy – a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan? One thing we know – it’s important to have either one or the other to make sure you’re covered.
Aren’t Medigap and Medicare Advantage the Same?
No, they are not the same, but it’s easy to understand why there is confusion. The two options do have similarities but are actually quite different – and you cannot enroll in both at the same time. Both Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies that are under contract with Medicare but serve different purposes.
Which Plan Is Best for Me?
For most people who enroll in Medicare Parts A and B, Medigap insurance can be a good choice. That is unless you enroll in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. You need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of buying traditional Medicare Parts A and B and also getting a Medigap policy vs. purchasing a Medicare Advantage plan, which combines Medicare Parts A and B, and sometimes D – and also typically covers some of what you normally pay for Medicare’s deductibles and co-payments.
Basic Info About Medigap
Traditional Medicare has substantial deductibles and copayments, and out-of-pocket medical expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars each year. The purpose of Medigap insurance is to cover these “gaps” in your Medicare plan.
Monthly expenses for Medigap plans can cost up to several hundred dollars, depending on your age, the type of plan you choose, and where you live. Premiums and plan features tend to vary, so do your homework. Medigap plans come in 10 standardized policies, called Plan A up to N. Each Plan A has the same features and so on, but not every state has the same plans. First, you need to select the type of plan that best suits your situation, then you should compare the premium costs among different insurance companies.
There is a great deal of information you need to understand if you are to purchase the Medigap plan that makes the most sense for you. I recommend you carefully review the features of the different plans with an insurance agent. For example, some Medigap plans offer emergency coverage while traveling overseas, and others do not. Choose the plan that meets your specific situation.
Basic Info About Medicare Advantage (MA)
Medicare Advantage plans offer the convenience of getting all your coverage from one source, which certainly makes life easier. In addition, MA plans may offer lower premiums than the total you might pay for Part D and Medigap plans combined. Some MA plans even provide benefits not covered by Medicare, such as dental, vision, and hearing, obviously, a nice plus. However, the MA plan you choose may require you to use doctors and hospitals in your plan’s network, and going outside the network can be costly. Keep in mind that MA plans have both HMOs and PPOs; if you do not want to get referrals from your doctor, the PPO plans may be a better choice for you.
The Bottom Line
Medicare alone isn’t enough of an insurance policy for you at age 65 and beyond. We recommend strongly you supplement traditional Medicare with either a Medigap or Medicare Advantage policy. Determining which is the best plan for you takes time, but it is time well spent to ensure you do not get hit with potentially life-changing expenses unexpectedly.
Annual Enrollment starts October 15 – December 7. Make sure to make an appointment with your agent or attend a meeting in your area to educate yourself on the changes for the upcoming year.
Key Takeaways for Medigap Plans
Key Takeaways for Medicare Advantage
If you have any questions that you would like answered in this column, submit your questions to email@example.com and title your email 50plusToday, or if you would like a consultation, please visit my website at www.myagentStacyCalloway.com.
About the Author: Stacy Calloway
Stacy Calloway is an experienced Insurance Agent licensed in the state of Texas and currently contracted with UnitedHealthcare Medicare Solutions. Stacy educates Medicare beneficiaries on the different parts of Medicare, prescription drug plans, and the benefits of becoming a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement member with UnitedHealthcare. Visit Stacy’s website to learn more and follow her on Facebook!