Today’s seniors have many choices when they need to determine the best way to use their Medicare benefits. Over the last ten years or so, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have become increasingly popular alternatives to just relying upon traditional Medicare. Many of them also include Medicare Part D and will add in extra benefits like basic dental, basic vision and basic hearing to make the Medicare Advantage plan more attractive. However, in recent years, we’ve begun to see a shift back to original Medicare with consumers looking to purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan with a stand-alone prescription drug plan. We predict that the market in 2018 for Medicare supplemental plans, which are very different than Medicare Advantage plans, will continue to grow. People who want to buy Medicare supplement plans will have plenty of top companies offering familiar choices, and there seem to be more companies entering the market all the time.
We can help you compare 2018 Medicare supplement plans in order to find the right solution for your own unique health needs and budget. Get started by selecting your state from the drop dowm menu on the form on top of this website. If you would prefer to discuss your needs with an experienced agent, we also welcome your phone calls.
Why Consider 2018 Medicare Supplement Plans?
Original Medicare covers many medical and hospital bills, but it doesn’t cover everything. For example, you currently have to pay a hospital deductible of more than $1,000 (changes yearly) for each benefit period. For long hospital stays, over 60 days, you could be responsible for coinsurance payments of hundreds of dollars a day. Once lifetime limits are exhausted, you will be faced with paying the entire bill for inpatient hospital stays.
You are also responsible for 20% of the cost of doctors, therapists, and medical equipment after a separate smaller deductible is satisfied.
Seniors purchase supplements to protect themselves and their families against these expenses. While some individuals choose very comprehensive plans that provide “first dollar” coverage, others select less expensive plan levels that only cover the most expensive potential medical bills.
Also, Medicare establishes rates for a variety of different medical services and products. Some providers may charge more than the allowed amount. Some Medicare supplements cover these excess charges, and this gives the policy holder more freedom to select their doctors and hospitals. If these higher prices are not covered by a Medicare supplement, individual beneficiaries either have to pick providers that don’t charge more than Medicare allows or pay the difference out of their own pocket.
Statistics for Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, these are some trends for 2018 Medicare supplement plan premiums:
- Average premium increase per year: 4.1%
- State with the most Medicare beneficiaries: California with about 3,802,500
- Average US monthly premiums: $181
- Average Florida premium: $181
- Average Texas premium: $190
- Average Arizona premium: $166
- Average New York premium: $226
- Average Pennsylvania premium: $163
- Average Ohio premium: $178
- Average Illinois premium: $193
- Average Alabama premium: $174
- Average North Carolina premium: $162
- Average Massachusetts premium: $201
- Average Missouri premium: $178
- Average Colorado premium: $181
Judging by the past trend of small yearly price increases, it might also be reasonable to expect a modest rate increase in future years. Also, in 2018 Medicare supplement rates continue to vary by location, plan level, and sometimes, health and age. Even within the same state and city, rates can vary by the company for the same Medicare supplement plan level.
When choosing a new plan, people tend to select the cheapest of the highly rated insurers. However, those who already have coverage may not be quick to switch to another company just to save a few dollars if they are already satisfied with their benefits and service. Finding the right Medicare supplement plan in any local area may also consist of researching a company’s reputation for paying claims and handling customer service issues.
How Does Healthcare Reform Change Medigap Plans in 2018?
Many beneficiaries have concerns over the way that health reform may change Medicare. Health reform does impact Medicare, but many of these changes will not be that obvious to beneficiaries.
First, Medicare supplement insurance plans are not in the new state or federal health insurance marketplaces. In fact, it is illegal for an agent to try to knowingly enroll a Medicare beneficiary in a marketplace plan. This means that beneficiaries will continue to enroll in their insurance policies through an agent or an insurance company in the way they have before. Private marketplace plans are mostly for people who do not have other affordable health insurance, so they are not open to people who already have Medicare.
However, health reform will impact Medicare in the future. These are some of the visible changes to Medicare caused by health reform:
- Preventative services: More preventative services, like colonoscopies and mammograms, will be covered at no extra cost.
- Prescriptions: The infamous “donut hole” will begin to close with more help with brand name drugs, and it should get totally closed by 2010.
- Medicare trust fund: The trust fund has been renewed until 2029 because of a reduced fraud and waste.
Top Companies for Medicare Supplement Plans
Supplements, sometimes called Medigap plans because they cover the gaps that Original Part A and B don’t, continue to appeal to many consumers. According to CSG Actuarial, these companies have reported growth in the number of plans they sold in recent years:
- Aetna Medicare Supplement Plans
- Cigna Medicare Supplement Plans
- Mutual of Omaha Medicare Supplement Plans
- AARP Medicare Supplement Plans
- Humana Medicare plans
The network that evolved out of the oldest Medicare insurance company in the country also offers popular Blue Cross Blue Shield Medigap Plans. Cigna, Bankers Life, Mutual of Omaha, and Gerber Life are also common providers for Medigap plans in some parts of the country.
Which company offering 2018 Medigap Plans should you choose? Again, your first task will be to find the right plan level. After that, you might just shop by price between top insurers in your city. Since the levels have been standardized by CMS, they provide the same benefits.
Popular Medicare Supplement Plans
Supplements have been standardized with different letter names from A to N for each level of coverage. The right choice really depends on each beneficiary’s budget and health needs, but it might be interesting to learn which supplements have been most popular.
Nationwide, these are the two most popular plans according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report:
- Plan F: Chosen by 40% of supplement owners
- Plan C: Chosen by 13% of supplement owners
The difference between Medicare Plan C and Medicare Plan F is that plan F also pays excess charges when medical providers charge more than Medicare says they should. But they both provide what is covered first dollar coverage, meaning they cover the Part A and B deductibles. For example, for most medical services, Medicare pays 80% and the recipient pays 20%.
For 2018 Medicare Supplement Plans, we’re expecting to see the buying trends continue to change in favor of Medicare Plan G. Also, Medicare Plan F and Medicare Plan N will remain close in popularity based on shifts we’re seeing in the market.
This explains the differences between some other common Medigap policies:
- Plan D is similar to C, but it does not pay the Part B deductible.
- Plan G is more like F, but it does not cover the Part B deductible.
- Plan A and B provide basic coverage, and premiums may be cheapest.
Note that there is also a high deductible version of Medicare Plan level F. The deductible is subject to change each year, but it was $2,140 in 2014. This choice might provide a solution for individuals who want robust coverage but don’t mind paying some expenses in exchange for lower premiums.
How Original Medicare Works with Medigap Plans
Meidgap Plans are meant to cover some of the expenses that are not paid by Part A and Part B. By paying for this extra coverage, beneficiaries can control and predict their expenses during the year. People who buy Medicare supplements have to pay a premium just like they do with other types of health insurance.
This is very different from how Medicare Advantage plans work:
- With a supplement, original Medicare and the supplement work together to provide more robust coverage.
- With Medicare Advantage Plans or MA Plans, the new plan replaces original Medicare with a plan that CMS has approved because it provides coverage that is equal to or better than Part A and Part B.
Also, Medigap Plans do not really include prescription D drug plans though you may be able to buy both Part D and a Medicare supplement from the same company. Many popular MA plans do include Medicare Part D. MA plans have also grown increasingly popular because applicants do not have to answer health questions.
Probably the main reason that many seniors choose Medicare Advantage is because many MA plans do not charge an additional premium, so they provide an affordable way to extend benefits. When MA plans do charge an additional premium, it is usually fairly modest. In most areas, you can find many $0 additional premium HMOs. PPOs are more likely to come with a small monthly charge. Something to consider is that with that “modest” or “zero” premium plan you will save money on your monthly payments, however, you will have more out of pocket expenses when you actually use the plan.
With an HMO, MA plan members virtually always need to seek covered services from a medical provider who is a member of the plan network. With a PPO, members pay less if they use their plan’s network of medical providers. However, the plan will still cover out-of-network providers at a lower benefit level. With a Medicare supplement insurance plan there is no network restriction, and you have more freedom to choose how and where you are treated.
Do You have to Answer Health Questions on the Application?
Beneficiaries can take advantage of special enrollment periods when they get guaranteed rights to sign up for any plan sold in their local area. The most common example of this guaranteed right is when a beneficiary first becomes eligible for Part A and Part B. Other circumstances may be trial periods with other types of senior health plans and rare occasions when an existing plan terminates or does not follow the rules.
At other times, beneficiaries may be subjected to medical underwriting, and people with preexisting health conditions could get charged more or even declined. In contrast, general Medicare Advantage policies cannot ask any medical questions to qualify members for coverage. You are, however, restricted to enroll only during certain times of the year. Whereas a Medicare recipient can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any time so long as they qualify based on either a guaranteed issue right or are able to answer the Medicare supplement company’s health questions. That said, each company’s qualifications vary, so it’s very important to enlist the assistance of a veteran Medicare supplement specialist to guide you through the process.
Find the Right Medicare Supplement Plans in 2018
Today’s seniors have a lot of choices when it comes to finding health insurance to help them make good use of their valuable Medicare benefits for 2018. However, having all of these choices can make it difficult to make a good choice without help. We are here to provide that help by offering online quotes and personalized assistance from trained and experienced senior health insurance agents.
You can begin to compare 2018 Medigap plans in your local area by typing your home ZIP code into the form at the top of this web page. We also welcome your phone calls if you have more questions or need help enrolling in either a Medigap plan, Medicare Advantage plan, or Part D plan. Let us know how we can help you find the right benefits at a price you can afford.