How do I select a Medicare Supplement Plan?

Ask Lance SHINE


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Dear Lance,

I will soon be eligible for Medicare and have decided that I want Original Medicare Parts A and B, a Medicare Supplement and a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Here’s the problem: I have spoken to several insurance agents that sell Medicare Supplement Policies, and they have steered me to different plan options and companies that offer these plans. I’m confused about how to go about selecting a Medicare Supplement.

Confused

Dear Confused,

Choosing the Medicare Supplement (sometimes called a Medigap) policy that best fits your needs can indeed be a challenging process. This is because Medicare has designed 10 different plans (labeled A, B, C., etc.) that are called Standardized Plans. Each plan is different in one or more aspects from the others. Making the decision even more difficult is that numerous insurance companies with different monthly premiums offer each Standardized Plan.

So, how do you choose?

First of all, you should learn what benefits are offered by each of the Standardized Plans so you become familiar with options. Go to the website medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/compare-medigap/compare-medigap.html for an overview of the coverage each plan offers.

The Medicare publication “Choosing a Medigap Policy” which is available online at medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/02110-Medicare-Medigap.guide.pdf is full of useful information. Another option is to request the free Publication 02110 from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at 7500 Security Boulevard Baltimore, Md. 21244-1850. It is full of useful information about making this important choice.

It is very important for you to know that each insurance company that offers a particular Standardized Plan provides the same benefits as the others, which is why these are called Standardized Plans.

For most, the cost of the premium is a major factor in choosing a plan. Just like any other insurance, the more complete the coverage is, the higher the premium will be. Some Medicare beneficiaries want their supplement to cover virtually all costs after Medicare pays its share (Plans F and G). They will pay the highest premium and are prepared to budget for the higher monthly premium. Others would prefer to pay a lower premium but take on greater financial responsibility. They might choose a plan that pays only some of the costs left after Medicare pays its share; then they would be responsible for the balance (Plans K and L). Other plans are between these extremes.

Once a plan is chosen, selecting an insurance company that offers that plan is next. Again, remember that all companies which offer the plan of interest to you must provide the same benefits. To find the insurance companies that offer each plan and their premiums, go to the following website of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation: apps.fldfs.com/mcws/CWSSearch.aspx

My best recommendation, though, is to contact a well-trained SHINE volunteer counselor who can guide you through the rather complex decision-making process, answer your questions and access the resources mentioned above. They can assist you in making a choice that best fits your individual needs. Additionally, they can help you to select a Part D Prescription Drug Plan that covers your medications at the lowest cost available. 

SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) is an award-winning statewide volunteer program that provides free, unbiased and confidential counseling and information for people on Medicare, their families and caregivers. SHINE is a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and is administered in partnership with the state’s 11 Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). In Brevard County, our ADRC is the Senior Resource Alliance located in Orlando.

To contact a SHINE volunteer counselor for confidential and unbiased assistance, call the Elder Helpline toll-free at 1-800-963-5337, or call 321-752-8080 locally. SHINE has 12 counseling locations throughout Brevard County. Counselors can assist you by telephone or in person. To find a SHINE counseling site near you, go to floridaSHINE.org or call the telephone numbers listed above.