10 Things You Should Know About Medicare Supplement

1. Medicare Supplement insurance is used to cover areas of healthcare not covered by Original Medicare or to help you pay costs related to Medicare, such as your Medicare Part B monthly premium or the 20% out-of-pocket expenses from most Medicare Part A claims. Medicare Supplement insurance is a good idea if you face chronic health problems that might require regular attention. You have a variety of options when it comes to Medicare Supplement insurance.

2. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you will have a range of Medicare Supplement plans available to you. These are known as Medigap. At the time of this writing, there are ten different Medigap plans known as Medigap A through Medigap N, not counting four that were discontinued. Each of these offers a range of covered services that extends Original Medicare to meet your personal health needs. However, you will only be eligible for the Medigap options if you are enrolled in Original Medicare.

3. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, your plan is administered by a private, for-profit organization and is separate from Original Medicare. In this case, you are usually covered by some services that go beyond what Original Medicare offers. You may or may not need additional Medicare Supplement insurance. You should get in contact with your plan administrator to understand exactly what is covered -- since Medicare Advantage Plans include Original Medicare benefits plus additional ones.

4. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare and choose a Medigap option, you are protected regarding the basic amounts of coverage your Medigap plan will offer. All Medigap plans endorsed by Original Medicare must cover at least the following common expenses: Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coinsurance, blood, and a large range of benefits related to hospital stays. The hospital benefits go well beyond anything offered by Medicare Part A hospital insurance.

5. Under a Medicare Supplement plan, you can expect the following additional benefits if you have to go to the hospital: coverage for the 61st through 90th day of your hospital stay per benefit period, a one-time only payment of days 91 through 150 of your hospital stay, a full calendar year (365 days) of in-patient hospital care over and above your Part A benefits, and Part B coinsurance after your yearly deductible is paid.

6. Medicare Supplement insurance also offers protection for some situations outside of an in-patient hospital setting. This includes a blood subsidy that will pay for the first three pints of blood per calendar year, normally an out of pocket expense under Medicare Part A. It also includes some coinsurance payments for outpatient services, like prescription drug benefits. Finally, it will pay coinsurance for in-patient "respite care." All together, these are called Medigap Basic Benefits.

7. If you hold a Medigap policy, you can sometimes receive 100% coverage for medical items and procedures that would usually be covered only up to a maximum of 80% under Original Medicare. Likewise, Medigap policies can help you to pay for the incidental expenses that are associated with holding a Medicare policy, such as the monthly premium in Medicare Part B and the deductible and copayment amounts.

8. If you live in Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, you will have different options for Medicare Supplement insurance than the ones outlined here. As in all states, your Medigap insurance will be operated by a private company and overseen by Medicare. But you are still protected by the rules and regulations that ensure a consistent standard of general coverage across all Medigap plans. This is true regardless of where you live.

9. Medigap Plans generally will not help you cover "routine care" that isn't covered by Original Medicare. For example, Medigap Plans offer little or no protection for the costs of routine eye exams, hearing evaluations, and the costs associated with hearing aids or eye glasses. If you need coverage for items like these, you may wish to consider a Medicare Advantage Plan with additional vision and hearing coverage.

10. When you adopt a Medigap plan, you become responsible for an additional monthly premium charge. This will be a separate charge from your Medicare Part B premium. If you wish to leave a Medigap plan, you do not have to wait for a special enrollment period, the same way you would for most other issues relating to Medicare. Instead, you can write directly to your program administrator and cancel at any time.