| Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Do I need a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

A little research can help you decide if a Medicare Supplement plan is right for you.Medicare Supplement Insurance plans, also known as “Medigap,” provide private insurance coverage that help pay some costs that Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover. But what are the benefits and costs?

Medicare Supplement plans are offered by private insurance companies. The costs and availability vary depending on where you live. Be sure to check with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) in your state for the details that apply to you.


Most states have up to ten Medicare Supplement plans labeled “A” through “N.” These plans help pay for:

  • Part A Deductibles
  • Part B Deductibles
  • Coinsurance and providers’ excess charges
  • Cost of blood transfusions
  • Cost of additional hospital days after you’ve used up your Part A benefits
  • Hospital and skilled nursing facility coinsurance
  • Some preventative care benefits
  • Foreign emergency benefits
  • Some drugs you provider must give you


There is a premium—a monthly cost—for each plan.

Additional costs, if any, vary by plan and insurance provider. Some insurance companies require you to pay a deductible before the plan covers your expenses. In other instances, there may be a copay, an amount you pay for each office visit or trip to the emergency room. In some cases you split the cost with the insurance company until you reach a certain limit (called “coinsurance”).

Tip: The coverage for a given plan type will be the same no matter which insurance company you buy the plan from, but the cost for that exact same coverage may differ between insurance companies. So it’s a good idea to find the plan you’re interested in, then research costs from various companies that serve your area before you apply.

Applying for a Plan

Medicare guarantees you the right to buy any Medicare Supplement plan available where you live for the first 6 months after you become eligible for Medicare and enroll in Part B. After this period ends, the insurer is allowed to consider your health when evaluating your application.

Contact the insurance company that offers the plan you’re interested in for instructions on how to apply. Many companies offer the option to apply online, by phone, or by filling out and sending in forms.

Note: If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C). You do not need—and an agent cannot legally sell you—a Medicare Supplement plan.

More Information

Use these resources to find out which plans are available in your area, to compare coverage between plans, and to find insurance companies and pricing.

  • SHIP: Contact the agency in your state for details on Medicare Supplement Insurance plans available to you.
  • Medicare.gov: Find plans in your ZIP code, and the insurance companies that carry them.
  • MedicareMadeClear.com: Learn more about benefits, costs, shopping for plans and applying.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, 7 days a week.


Medicare Supplement Insurance video

Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare

Learn About Medigap’s Basic Benefits

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