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Medicare Open Enrollment

Scott Maxwell - Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It’s open enrollment for Medicare, the time of year when participants can change their Advantage plan and prescription drug plan (should they have a separate drug plan). Medicare Advantage plans can change their benefits from year to year, and that change can make a difference in out of pocket costs for some.

It’s worth a trip to in order to use their interactive tool to choose a plan based on costs. There is a wealth of information there, and the plan finder works pretty well if you would like to purchase a prescription drug or Medicare Advantage plan.

But what if you would like a Medigap plan?

Medigap plans have been around for quite a while. They are the original form of Medicare Supplement, paying for the things that the original Medicare won’t. These plans are sold in standardized forms, Plans A through M, allowing the purchaser to easily compare plans and determine the coverage offered. One of these plans coupled with a prescription drug plan, Medicare Part D, can provide a pretty comprehensive package. And because the Medigap plan is standardized, those benefits won’t change from year to year (although the price might).

The Medigap plans aren’t part of the result list you get when you choose a plan with Medicare’s Planfinder. Instead, you have to look around a bit and find the separate area of the Medicare website devoted to these plans. You can search for the companies that offer a particular plan in your area but can’t see the plan cost in the list of results. For that it appears you have to go to the website of the particular company offering that plan. I tried this with the list of companies that offer “Plan F” and then chose the first company on the list, AARP, and was taken to the AARP Health Care website. Once there, I was re-directed after a few clicks to the United Healthcare website where I finally found the price tag: $139/mo.

This is a pretty daunting task, and to do this for each of the choices rather cumbersome. It would appear that Medicare has made it more difficult to access information about traditional Medicare and Medigap plans as opposed to the newer Medicare Advantage plans.

If you are purchasing Medicare for the first time your first decision point is to either:

  • Choose original Medicare alone and purchase no supplemental insurance of any kind (although this has significant affects on the cost you will pay in the future for plans via an imposed penalty)
  • Choose original Medicare coupled with a Medigap insurance plan and an optional separate prescription drug plan.
  • Choose a Medicare Advantage plan either with or without prescription drug coverage.

In our area, Medicare Advantage is widely used. The premium cost is low and the benefits have been fairly attractive. But it’s worth taking a look at the Medigap plans and original Medicare.

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