Many adults rely on their job or their spouse's job for health insurance, but once you retire, you'll need to look elsewhere for coverage. In America, most retired seniors turn to Original Medicare. Having access to Medicare is certainly a perk, but it won't fully protect you against the rising costs of prescriptions and health care. That's where Medigap plans come in: They fill the gap between what Original Medicare Part A and Part B covers and what you owe.
If you're in the market for a Medigap plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) might be exactly what you're looking for. They offer all 10 available Medigap plans and support millions of seniors across the country. Depending on where you live, you may even have access to add-ons like hearing aid coverage or dental insurance. We certainly think considering BCBS is worth it for any senior who wants a Medigap plan! In this review, we'll get into everything you need to know about BCBS Medigap plans, including plans and benefits, cost, and how to purchase a plan.
Unlike other insurance companies, such as Aetna, BCBS isn't a single company. It's actually an umbrella term for an association of 36 locally operated BCBS companies. Here's where it can get confusing: Many of these companies go by a different name.
Some of these names include:
If you decide to give BCBS a serious look, you will need to find the local company that provides coverage to your ZIP code. Below, we'll explain exactly how to do that. Depending on where you live, you might end up with more than one option to compare.
BCBS, as a whole, provides all 10 Medicare plans. Not every individual BCBS company offers every plan, though. You'll need to check with your local provider to see which plans are available to you.
FYI: Plan C and Plan F are no longer available to new enrollees. If you were eligible for Medicare before January 1, 2020, and bought Plan F and/or C, you can likely keep your plan(s).
Here's a brief look at the main benefits and what each plan offers.
|Plan||Benefits||Special Benefit Notes|
|A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||Part A coinsurance hospital costs up to an additional 365 days after Medicare benefits are exhausted|
|A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||Medicare Part B coinsurance or copayment||
|A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||First 3 pints of blood||
|A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment||
|C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance||
|B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, N||Medicare Part A deductible||
|C, F||Medicare Part B deductible|
|G, F||Medicare Part B excess charges|
|C, D, F, G, M, N||Medically necessary emergency care in a foreign country||Only 80%|
Please note that a Plan G high-deductible plan is also available and that Plan K and Plan L both have out-of-pocket limits of $6,220 and $3,110, respectively.
Now that you've learned a bit about each type of plan, let's figure out which one is right for you. Our outline below will help you better understand which plan might work best for you or your spouse.
Do you rarely visit the doctor? Are you active and healthy? Then you may not need as much supplemental coverage as others. Plan N could be a good option for you, given its low premium. Just know that you'll owe a $20 copay for each office visit and a $50 copay for ER visits.
If you know that you'll be regularly attending doctor's appointments, scheduling surgeries, or visiting specialists, a Plan G high-deductible option may be a good fit. In 2021, Plan G has a $2,370 deductible. In other words, after you pay $2,370 in out-of-pocket costs, the plan kicks in to help pay your out-of-pocket Medicare costs.
Pro Tip: Plans A through G have higher premiums with limited out-of-pocket costs. Plans K through N give you similar benefits at lower premiums, but you'll have higher out-of-pocket costs.
International travel is a popular way to spend your retirement years. Any senior with the travel bug should consider plans C, D, F, G, M, or N. Having 80 percent of qualifying emergency care costs covered will lessen the financial blow if you experience a medical emergency while traveling abroad.
BCBS' Medigap Plans A and B take care of your copayments and coinsurance from Original Medicare Part A and Part B. This can make the cost of routine appointments, home health care, hospice care, and hospital stays more predictable and affordable. And, with these plans, you're not paying for coverage you won't use. Of course, that could mean you'll face a few unexpected expenses.
All BCBS Medigap plans have associated costs. These can include deductibles, premiums, copays, and coinsurance. Your premium is what you'd owe every month while you hold the policy, so it's something you'll want to factor into your monthly budget.
Money-Saving Tip: Some BCBS companies offer discounts. For example, with Anthem, each family member in your household with a Medicare Supplement insurance plan receives a 5 percent household discount.1 Talk to your local provider to see what discounts are available.
In the table below, we've provided example prices for four independent BCBS companies. Your actual premium price for that company would vary based on your ZIP code, age, sex, and tobacco use, so the numbers below should only be used as examples to give you a general idea.
|Plan||Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana2 (Beaverhead, Mont.)||Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas*3 (Dallas, Texas)||Independence Medicare* (Philadelphia, Pa.)||Anthem4 (Los Angeles, Calif.)|
|A||$122.33 – $206.69||$211.00||$119.16||$143.50|
|F||$171.73 – $290.80||$173.69||N/A||$219.17|
|High-Deductible Plan F||$63.22 – $106.09||$51.81||N/A||N/A|
|G||$125.72 – $212.87||$124.17||$165.05||$132.78|
|High-Deductible Plan G||$60.24 – $101.10||$51.81||$61.95||N/A|
|N||$121.34 – $204.91||$104.30||$127.25||$176.38|
*Estimated premiums for a non-smoking female born July 12, 1955.
We suggest purchasing your Medigap policy as soon as you're eligible. That way, you have access to all of the plans and the best prices. When exactly does that eligibility start? Well, there's a six-month Medigap open enrollment period. It begins on the first day of the month during which you're 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
If that time has already passed for you, don't worry! You aren't out of luck. You can still buy a Medigap policy after the enrollment period ends. You just might have limited policy options because the insurance company will use medical underwriting.
Now, let's walk through how to find your BCBS provider and sign up.
Money-Saving Tip: Medigap supplemental insurance rates can increase during your time as a policyholder. Call each provider you're interested in, and ask the agent to explain the pricing system. A plan that's slightly more expensive for the first few years could be cheaper in the long term after you factor in rate increases.
BCBS is unique because it's made up of 36 independent insurance companies. Although that means it may take a few extra steps to find your provider, it also means you get the best of both worlds: the more personalized service of a smaller insurance company with the support and resources of a large one. We also love that many BCBS companies offer add-on benefits for older adults, like coverage for dental care, vision, and hearing exams and services.
No, BCBS is not a government agency. However, BCBS is a Medicare contractor for the federal government.
In most cases, Medigap coverage through BCBS is accepted anywhere that accepts Medicare.
Some Blue Cross Blue Shield companies offer add-on plans that cover routine hearing exams and hearing aid purchases through TruHearing. Program availability depends on your location and the individual BCBS company that you choose to work with.
Supplemental insurance is optional for seniors who have Medicare Part A and Part B. However, it can help you save big bucks on your medical costs that you otherwise might not be able to afford.