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Medicare Annual Enrollment is Happening Now! Everything You Need to Know

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Best Medigap Insurance for Seniors in 2021

Our experts have researched 16 medicare supplement insurance plans and recommend 11 of the best options for seniors.

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Top 11 Highest Ranked Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans in 2021

It can be a headache to figure out various insurance costs and coverage levels. For example, what’s covered under original Medicare, a Medigap supplement policy, a Medicare Advantage plan, a Plan D prescription drug plan, a dental plan and a vision plan? In the end, many seniors opt for Medicare Part A and Part B (together, called original Medicare) or Medicare Part C (also called Medicare Advantage). A and B cover hospital and medical insurance. Seniors pay premiums in addition to out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance. Meanwhile, Part C packages A and B together, and in most cases, Part D, which covers prescription drugs. Some Part C plans also cover services such as dental, vision and hearing that original Medicare does not. Seniors may or may not have to pay Medicare Advantage premiums, but they do generally pay coinsurance and out-of-pocket charges. For seniors choosing original Medicare, enrolling in Part D is optional. Also optional is whether to find a supplemental insurance plan, called Medigap insurance. This type of policy does not cover additional services such as dental like a Part C plan might, but it does help with out-of-pocket expenses. Moreover, some Medigap plans cover most medical care costs when you travel outside of the United States. About 25 percent of seniors enrolled in original Medicare get Medigap insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Others forego supplemental plans altogether, while some turn to employer-sponsored plans and Medicaid. You buy Medigap plans through private insurance companies such as these listed below. It’s also possible to find supplemental coverage from a union or a former employer.

How We Chose Our Top List

Coverage matters. A lot. Unfortunately, finding the right coverage level that doesn’t break the bank can frustrate even the most patient senior. So we did the homework for you — looking at important factors like plans and pricing, signup process, customer service, flexibility, and more. Our top 11 list is the result of our in-depth research. We think you’ll agree that it’s the best online resource for finding the coverage you need.

Plans considered
Experts consulted
Plans selected
Hours of research

What is Medigap?

 The purpose of Medigap plans is to help with costs original Medicare does not cover, and each Medigap plan applies to only one person. That said, spouses may be able to get household discounts of five to 12 percent with many insurers. Medigap plans are not Medicare Advantage plans, and they do not include dental, vision or hearing insurance nor prescription drug coverage.

In 2021, there are 10 Medigap insurance plans, each designated by a letter (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Massachusetts do things slightly differently).

Each plan is standardized. For example, the basic benefits you receive under Medigap Plan G are the same in Kentucky as in California. The chart on this Medicare website shows the various plans and the basic benefits they cover.

You must have Medicare Part A and Part B before getting a Medigap plan. After getting original Medicare, decide which Medigap plan you want (A, B, C, D, F, high-deductible F, G, K, L, M or N). Then you can use this Medigap policy search to find the companies selling the plan of your choice in your ZIP code. From there, compare the premium prices and other factors important to you, for example, customer support, in-person agents, whether you already have policies with the company or whether you can purchase additional policies such as Part D or dental insurance.

Plan F is the most popular because there are no surprises whatsoever with your medical costs. However, it’s pricey and can lead to big premium increases from year to year. It was discontinued in 2020 for most new enrollees. Fortunately, Plan G is nearly identical and is more affordable. The big difference is that seniors on Plan G must pay their Part B deductible, which was $185 in 2019. That’s it. All the other benefits of Plan F versus Plan G are the same. Plan C is the other plan that was discontinued in 2020 for new enrollees. Plan C does not cover excess Part B charges.

It can be tricky to change your Medigap plan once you enroll, so choose carefully. Think about potential rising premium costs down the road. Experts tend to recommend Plan G over Plan F.

The plan you pick depends on how much of the cost-sharing you’re willing to take on. All of the Medigap insurance plans 100 percent cover Medicare Part A coinsurance and hospital costs for up to 365 days after you use Medicare benefits. They cover Medicare B copayments up to varying levels. For example, all of the plans except K and L cover copayments 100 percent, with K covering 50 percent and L covering 75 percent. Other areas you may want covered include:

  • Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
  • First three pints of blood
  • Foreign travel emergencies
  • Part A deductible
  • Part B deductible
  • Part B excess charges
  • Out-of-pocket limits

Why Should Seniors Consider Medigap Plans?

 Seniors should consider Medigap plans for these reasons:

  • Guaranteed renewable (as long as you pay your premiums on time and don’t misrepresent information on your application)
  • Medical expenses control with copays, coinsurance, deductibles and other charges
  • More flexibility to travel out of the country and have medical costs covered (under certain plans)
  • Choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare

The reality is that original Medicare pays only about 80 percent of your hospitalization and medical office costs. Medigap plans help keep your costs predictable.

Medicare Advantage plans can be an option, with some covering “extras” such as dental and prescription and some requiring no monthly premiums. However, you could be hit with high out-of-pocket expenses.

How Much Do Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans Cost?

Medigap plan costs come down to several factors, notably the following:

  • Whether it is your open-enrollment period
  • Whether you’ve paid premiums on time
  • The particular insurer
  • Your age, gender, tobacco use in the past 12 months and ZIP code
  • The plan itself (generally, the more things a Medigap policy covers, the higher the premium is—so F costs more than A)

Open enrollment is typically the best time to get a plan. It starts the month you turn 65 and lasts six months. During this period, you get what insurers call the “preferred” rate regardless of any pre-existing conditions you may have. Enroll outside of this period, and you may have to pay “standard” rates. It’s also possible for your application to be rejected if you seek Medigap outside of open enrollment.

Now, if you’re waiting to enroll in Medicare Part B and Medigap because you have a spouse whose insurance covers you, you can still have an open-enrollment period for Medigap past your 65th birthday. It begins when the employer’s coverage ends (for example, if your spouse retires).

There’s also something called guaranteed issue in which insurers must give you Medigap coverage even if your open enrollment period has ended. In short, open enrollment can affect your plan’s cost but does not necessarily do so.

Your protections are stronger in these four states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and New York. For example, New York has continuous enrollment.

Open enrollment aside, your ZIP code may be the biggest factor in how much you pay because of cost-of-living variations and clusters of senior citizen communities. For example, if you live in Miami, Florida, you’ll pay significantly more than you do if you live in Fort Worth, Texas. In such cases, you may save money by going with a Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plan instead of getting Medigap insurance.

As for your age, it really is a big factor. Insurers in many states use attained-age policies. The younger you are, the less you pay. However, some insurers such as AARP/UnitedHealthcare use a community-based approach. Premiums under such plans can still increase from year to year due to factors such as inflation.

In eight states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington) insurers must use community ratings. These insurers can still charge different rates depending on tobacco use, ZIP code, and other factors. They cannot charge more for someone who is older or sicker.

With Mutual of Omaha’s attained-age rated pricing in Virginia ZIP code 24016, a female born in 1954 would pay about $1,187 per year for Plan G without the household discount. Conversely, a female born in 1944 would pay about $1,460.

Medigap Plans for Every Need

We know that insurance plans aren’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why we’ve put together our top picks for different needs and lifestyles:

Learn More About Medicare and Medigap Coverage

If you are looking to learn more about Medicare and Medigap coverage, check out the video below for an Introduction to Medicare from the Senior Living YouTube Channel. Here, you will find information about different plan types and Medigap, as well as alternative sources for Medicare information.

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt