If you are eligible for Medicare in California, you may want additional coverage to reduce your out of pocket healthcare costs. Californians can choose from as many as ten Medicare Supplement plans. These plans may be offered by several insurance companies, at different price points.
If you’re having trouble wrapping your mind around this, here are the basics. The centerpiece of Medicare coverage is Part A (for hospitalization) and Part B (for other medical expenses). If you only have parts A and B, you will still have out of pocket healthcare costs, including deductibles and co-pays.
Medicare Supplement, also known as Medigap, is a private insurance policy that provides additional benefits and picks up many of your out of pocket healthcare expenses. You pay a monthly premium for Medigap, but you save money on doctor and hospital bills.
There are 10 standard Medigap plans available in the U.S., identified as Plan A through Plan N. These plans may be sold by several different insurance companies, but the benefits for each plan will always be the same.
Bankers Fidelity Plan F includes exactly the same coverage as United Healthcare’s Plan F. But the two Plan Fs may not cost the same amount – each insurer is sets its own premiums. This means your monthly costs will depend on both the plan you choose and the insurance company that issues your policy.
So how do you decide? One approach is to look at the offerings from some of the top California insurance carriers.
Blue Shield of California Medicare Supplements
Blue Shield offers eight different Medicare Supplement Plans in California: Plans A, C, D, F, G, K, N, and a high deductible version of Plan F. Of those plans, F, G and N are the most popular because they offer the most comprehensive benefits. Here’s how to compare Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan F, Plan G & Plan N:
- All three plans pay the 20 percent copay for healthcare costs under Medicare Part B, the part A deductible ($1340 in 2018), and co-pays for skilled nursing and hospice care. Plans F, G and N also cover an additional 365 days of hospitalization, beyond what Medicare Part A covers.
- Plans F and G pay for “excess charges,” but Plan N does not. Many healthcare providers accept “Medicare assignment,” which means they consider Medicare Part B’s reimbursement rate to be full payment for their services. Providers who don’t take Medicare assignment can add up to 15 percent to your bill as an “excess charge.” Unless you have Medigap Plan F or G, you are responsible for these excess charges.
- Plan F is the only Medigap plan that pays your annual Part B deductible, which is $134 for 2018
AARP of California Medicare Supplements (United Healthcare)
AARP isn’t an insurance company, but it partners with United Healthcare to offer Medicare Supplement Plans. United Healthcare has been providing Medicare Supplement coverage to Californians for 14 years. For 2018, it is
offering seven plans: Plans A, B, C, F, K, L and N. Of these, Plan F offers the most complete coverage, and it is also the most popular option.
Cigna California Medicare Supplements
Cigna is a large, well-known insurance company that provides Medigap coverage in several states. As of 2018, Cigna does not offer any Medigap policies in California. Californians can, however, enroll in a Cigna Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
Comparing Plans and Carriers
Comparing California Medicare plans and carriers isn’t always easy. You have to weigh your potential healthcare costs against the expense of a monthly premium. You may be tempted to get your Medigap policy from the same insurance company that covered you when you were employed. But your old familiar insurance company may have higher premiums than some of your other options, or it may not offer the plan you want.