Medicare Supplement Insurance or Medigap
What is Medicare supplement insurance?
Medicare supplement insurance, also known as Medigap, is an insurance policy meant to pay for the costs of Original Medicare. It is a supplemental insurance so in order to sign up for Medigap, one must already be enrolled in Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B). The "gaps" that Medigap covers are the costs that Medicare doesn't cover like copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles. In the Original Medicare page, it was mentioned that there would be out-of-pocket costs for nearly every product or service received. Medigap is insurance to help mitigate those costs through an additional monthly premium.
Medigap is provided by a private insurance company but there are 10 standardized plans that are approved by Medicare. The 10 plans are named with single letters which may be very confusing for people researching Medicare. There are Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D which are under Medicare and the 10 Medigap plans are A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N. Plan F being the most popular due to its extensive coverage. The plans are standardized so each plan has a set amount of coverage as mandated by law. Prospective enrollees in Medigap should still do their research because despite the uniform coverage, prices will vary from provider to provider so research should be done for the best rates.
When can I enroll for a Medigap plan?
The most ideal time to sign up for Medigap would be during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This period lasts 6 months and beings on the first day of the month in which you're both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this period, the insurance must
- Offer you every Medigap policy it offers
- Charge you the same rate as a person with no health problems
- Not delay the start of your coverage
These three clauses are known as "guaranteed issue". The other instances in with you would be entitled "guaranteed issue" is if
- Your Medicare Advantage plan shuts down or you move out of its service area
- Your retiree plan shuts down
- You joined Medicare Advantage at 65 but decide to switch back to original Medicare within a year.
- Your Medigap plan shuts down.
This means even if you have health problems, signing up during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period will mean the lowest rates. Medigap plans are guaranteed renewable each year even if you develop a health problem, as long as you continue to pay the monthly premium.
Outside open enrollment, signing up for Medigap can be costly. Outside open enrollment, insurance companies can charge a higher premium for pre-existing conditions or even refuse to provide service at all.