Original Medicare offers quality coverage, but it leaves a lot of out-of-pocket costs on the table. On average, Medicare beneficiaries paid $5,460 out of pocket on healthcare expenses in 2016, but people without supplemental insurance paid even more ($7,473). This is where Medicare Supplement Plan F and other Medigap plans can be beneficial. These plans pay down the expenses left behind by Part A and Part B, including deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

With the exception of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, the federal government standardizes what is included in each lettered Medicare Supplement Plan (Plans A through N). Medicare Supplement Plan F is not only the most comprehensive plan for lowering out-of-pocket costs, it is also the most popular. According to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) nearly 14 million people on Original Medicare were also on a Medigap plan in 2018 and more than half of them were on Plan F.

Explainer:

Starting on January 1, 2020, Plan F is not available to people newly enrolled in Medicare. Plan F is still an option if you were eligible for Medicare before that date, whether based on age (65 years or older) or qualifying disability (regardless of age).

Keep reading for help in deciding if Plan F is right for you, and how to select the best Medicare Supplement Plan F provider for your needs.

Explainer:

Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have state-specific policies and do not offer Medicare Supplement Plan F.

Explainer:

Although Medicare has an annual Open Enrollment Period, there is only one Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This six-month period starts when you enroll in Medicare Part B. Signing up after that time will allow companies to increase your rates or deny you coverage based on preexisting conditions.

Aetna: Best for Cost and Overall Price Transparency

Aetna


Pros

  • 24/7 nurse line

  • Highest household discounts (up to 14%)

  • Also offers dental, vision, and Part D drug plans

  • Rates available online

Founded in 1853 as a life insurance company, Aetna entered the healthcare market in 1899. Now a subsidiary of CVS Health Corporation, these two reputable companies work together to bring you a well-rounded healthcare experience. Aetna offers Plan F in 41 states, excluding Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. High-Deductible Plan F is available in 20 states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Enrolling in Medicare Supplement Plan F is easy and if you also need to sign up for a Medicare Part D plan for the prescription drug plan, it offers many that rate 4 stars or higher on the Medicare Five-Star Rating System.  To enroll, you must reach out to a representative by phone. Its rate for Plan F was the lowest we found, starting at $142 per month for a 66-year-old man. Rates may vary based on age, preexisting medical conditions, and where you live.

Although you cannot enroll in Plan F online, Aetna’s website and its Aetna HealthSM mobile app are primed with useful information. While companies rarely list their rates online, Aetna does. Select Your State on the home page and open View Medicare Supplement State Insurance Plans. On the next page, again Select Your State and open the Review Outline of Coverage PDF that appears. This document lists detailed information for all of its Medicare Supplement Plans based on age, gender, and ZIP code. Rates are based on an attained-age model, so your pricing increases as you get older.

Aetna has a 24/7 Medicare Nurse Line to address your health questions. The company also stands out for its generous household discount programs. In many states, you can save up to 7% on your monthly premiums if you live with someone who is also enrolled in one of its Medicare Supplement Plans. The discount rate increases to 14% in 15 states—Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee—if you purchase your plan through the Accendo Insurance Company. Since Original Medicare does not cover them, you may also be interested in enrolling in dental, hearing, and vision coverage.

Blue Cross Blue Shield: Best for Discounts

Blue Cross Blue Shield


Pros

  • 24/7 nurse line

  • Household discounts (up to 7%)

  • New to Medicare Discount ($300 off in your first year)

  • User-friendly website

  • Also offers dental, hearing, vision, and Part D plans

Founded in 1929, BCBS was the first insurance company to manage Medicare claims in 1966. Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is the umbrella company for Anthem, CareFirst, Highmark, and the Regence Group. Altogether, BCBS offers Plan F in 43 states, excluding Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. High-Deductible Plan F is available in 14 states: Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.

Because a number of independent companies work under the BCBS name, there is no go-to contact number to call to enroll in Medicare Supplement Plan F. When you enter your ZIP code on its website, BCBS directs you to the appropriate company in your state. What makes BCBS stand out is its breadth of insurance options. Not only does it offer Plan F, but it also offers dental, hearing, and vision coverage, in addition to 4- to 5-Star Medicare Part D prescription drug plans that can maximize your coverage options under Original Medicare. Like most companies, its pricing for Medigap is based on an attained-age model in which rates increase based on your age. BCBS rates are competitive, starting at $172 per month for a 66-year-old male in Lansing, Michigan. Rates could change based on age, chronic conditions, or location.

BCBS members have access to a 24/7 nursing hotline. Depending on your state, a wide variety of discount programs are also available. Blue California, for one, offers a New to Medicare discount ($25 per month your first year), a household discount when two or more enrollees live together (7%), an automatic bank payment discount ($3 per month), and discounts for enrolling in a dental plan at the same time ($3 per month). Be sure to ask about available discounts in your state.

Cigna: Best for User Experience

Cigna


Founded in 1792 as an insurance company, Cigna ventured into health care in 1912 and remains a leader in the industry. It offers Plan F in 46 states, excluding Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin, and offers High-Deductible Plan G in 30 states, excluding the aforementioned states as well as Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

To request a quote or enroll in Cigna Plan F, call the company or fill out the form on its website that requires basic personal information, including your start dates of Medicare Parts A and B. Plans start at $209 per month for a 66-year-old male in Lansing, Michigan, but they could vary based on your age, gender, medical conditions, and address. The plans are based on an attained-age model in the majority of states it services. Under this format, prices increase regularly based on your age. If you are also looking for a Medicare Part D Plan to round out your Medicare coverage, Cigna has many 4+ Star plans to meet your needs.

Cigna’s website stands out for its user-friendly interface, with easy-to-understand graphics providing clear information about Medicare and their plan offerings. It also offers the myCigna Mobile app to track your benefits, claims, and account balances. Its Cigna Wellbeing App encourages healthy living with lifestyle trackers, wellness tools, and telehealth options. As an added bonus for signing up, you have access to a 24-hour Health Information Line where you can speak to a nurse about any concerns you have.

Cost-wise, Cigna is competitive. In all states except for California, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey, and Vermont, it offers further savings with a 7% household discount on monthly premiums when two or more enrollees live together. In Washington, the discount only applies to spouses.

How We Chose the Best Medicare Supplement Plan F Companies

Every Supplement Plan F covers the same items, but not every plan is on equal footing. You also need to consider a company’s reputation, pricing structure, website friendliness, and other perks. To find the top Medicare Supplement carriers, we reviewed all companies in the Medigap Find a Plan database that offered Plan F and High-Deductible Plan F. Only those that serviced 40 or more states were considered. Each company was ranked based on the quality and ease of use of its website, price transparency, whether prices were based on age, and the types of plan available (regular vs. high-deductible). Any discounts or perks offered by these companies were also highlighted. For pricing comparisons, we called each company to request a quote for a healthy non-smoking 66-year-old male living in Lansing, Michigan.

How to Shop and Compare the Best Medicare Supplement Plan F

Step 1: Choose Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan

Decide what kind of Medicare best suits your needs, Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) or Medicare Advantage (Part C). You can do this when you sign up for Medicare or during the Medicare Open Enrollment (October 15–December 7). You are not eligible for a Medicare Supplement plan when you enroll in Medicare Advantage.

Step 2: Find Out If You Are Eligible for Medicare Supplement Plan F

These plans are not offered to new Medicare beneficiaries in 2020. If you were eligible for Medicare based on a qualifying disability and/or your 65th birthday was before January 1, 2020, you may be eligible for Plan F.

Step 3: Decide Between a Regular Plan F and High-Deductible Plan F

Choose the plan that makes the most sense for you financially. Regular Plan F will offer higher monthly premiums but will begin to pay toward out-of-pocket costs right away. High-Deductible Plan F, on the other hand, offers lower monthly premiums but requires you to pay an annual deductible, set at $2,340 for 2020, before it will pay toward out-of-pocket costs.

Step 4: Find an Available Medicare Supplement Plan F in Your State

Medicare makes this easy by virtue of its Medigap Find a Plan database. Enter your ZIP code for a list of available plans in your area and select View Policies on the right of the screen for a list of companies offering Plan F or High-Deductible Plan F. To narrow the pricing window, there is an option to enter age, gender, and tobacco use on the Main Search page.

Step 5: Get Help From a Medicare Specialist

Medigap plans are nuanced when it comes to pricing. For example, not everyone understands that there is only one Medigap Enrollment Period in your lifetime, not an annual one like there is for other Medicare plans. Signing up late can cause your rates to go up based on preexisting conditions. Your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program or State Insurance Department can help you with issues like this. You can also ask your broker for details.

Step 6: Sign Up for Medicare Supplement Plan F

You may receive marketing mail about Medicare Supplement Plans, especially during Medicare Open Enrollment. The Medigap Find a Plan site on Medicare.gov also gives phone numbers and direct website links for each Medigap plan in your state. Reach out to the insurance company of your choice for a quote. In fact, considering reaching out to multiple companies to get the best rate. There is no option to sign up through the Medicare site directly.

Am I Still Eligible for Medicare Supplement Plan F?

Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) in 2015. One part of the law aimed to reduce access to Medicare Supplement Plans that covered the Part B deductible. Those plans, Plan C and Plan F, are no longer available to new beneficiaries, but you can still sign up for them if you were eligible for Medicare and born before January 1, 2020.

What Is the Difference Between Medicare Supplement Plans F and G?

Medicare Supplement Plans F and G are very similar. The one difference is that Plan G does not cover the Part B deductible ($198 in 2020). Otherwise, they each pay toward the following:

  • 80% of foreign travel expenses (up to plan limits)
  • 100% of blood products (the first 3 pints)
  • 100% of Part A coinsurance and hospital costs up to 365 days
  • 100% of Part A deductible
  • 100% of Part A hospice care coinsurance/copayments
  • 100% of Part B coinsurance/copayments
  • 100% of Part B excess charge
  • 100% of skilled nursing facility coinsurance

Does Medicare Plan F Cover My Prescriptions?

Before Medicare Part D took effect in 2006, certain Medicare Supplement Plans (Plans H, I, and J) offered prescription drug coverage. After January 1, 2006, however, companies were no longer allowed to sell these plans to new beneficiaries. People who had been on them previously were allowed to keep their plans as long as they did not sign up for Part D coverage.

That does not mean that people cannot get prescription drug coverage with the Medigap plans available today. Medicare Supplement Plan F (and all plans that cover Part B coinsurance/copayments) pays toward prescription medications that are covered under Medicare Part B. Any medications under Medicare Part D, however, will not be covered.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for Medicare Plan F?

The following summary reviews Plan F costs across four regions of the United States. Based on cost summaries from Medicare’s Medigap Find a Plan database, Part F ranges from $106 to $550 per month in 2020.

  • East Coast (Albany, New York): $242–$469
  • Midwest (Lansing, Michigan): $120–$550
  • South (Austin, Texas): $106–$458
  • West Coast (Sacramento, California): $131–$382

Keep in mind this is only a sampling of data. Costs could be higher or lower where you live, depending on your age, your gender, and when you first sign up for Medigap.



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