Do you dream of retirement, even though you’re still in your working years? Unfortunately, more and more people have discovered a disconcerting truth about retirement: Neither Social Security nor Medicare will cover every cost associated with living out your golden years.
Baby boomers have run into a unique problem — advancements in medical technology and prescription drugs mean that people are living longer than ever before and have vastly underestimated how much money they’ll need for retirement. Suddenly, the cost of a monthly prescription or copay for an unexpected doctor’s appointment can put a major strain on your budget.
The Best Medicare Supplemental Insurance is:
- Best Overall for Medicare: Cigna
- Most Affordable Medicare Supplemental Insurance: Humana
- Best Customer Service: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Best for Claims: Aetna
- Best for Quick Service: United Medicare Providers
- Best for Drug Inclusion: UnitedHealthcare
What Makes a Great Medicare Supplemental health Insurance Company?
Individual states may limit the types of Medicare supplement policies that may be sold, and not every plan will be available in every state. Before you invest in a policy, check with your state’s insurance department to ensure that the company is legally allowed to operate and issue plans where you live. Other characteristics of a great plan include:
- International coverage. One of the major benefits of maintaining a Medicare supplement plan is that these plans are allowed to provide benefits and coverage types that are not offered by Medicare Parts A and B. If you frequently travel outside of the country for vacation or to visit members of your family living abroad, choosing a Medigap policy with coverage for international hospital stays and emergency medical treatment is a smart idea.
- Affordable premiums. The purpose of a Medicare supplement plan is to help you cover some of the costs that aren’t included in your Medicare plan. Choose a plan with a low and reasonable premium to help you save more money and ensure that your health is covered.
5 Best Medicare Supplemental Insurance Companies
One of the most well-known specialty insurance providers in the United States, Cigna’s Medicare supplement policies are top-notch and widely available.
Cigna offers competitive premiums and policies are currently offered in 38 states (though some states limit supplement benefits available if you qualify for Medicare because of a disability). You can even get a discount through Cigna’s Household Premium Discount plan if you and your spouse both sign on with a policy.
Cigna’s supplement policies don’t sacrifice quality for low prices; the company offers policies that complement Medicare Parts A, B, and D (prescription drug coverage), as well as a few other less common Medicare benefit plans.
Some of Cigna’s higher plans also include international coverage for emergencies. In most cases, you’re free to keep your own primary care physician so long as they accept Medicare coverage without worrying about whether their practice is considered in Cigna’s network.
Cigna’s policies are also guaranteed renewable for life except under extenuating circumstances — so you won’t have to worry about suddenly being dropped from your plan. With wide availability and affordable rates, Cigna is a great supplemental insurance choice for those who qualify for Medicare.
Humana is a rock-solid supplemental insurance provider that offers plans throughout the country. Humana offers supplementary policies for nine out of 10 Medicare plans and some of Humana’s plans also offer international coverage as well.
Humana’s easy-to-use search function will introduce you to plan options in your state just by entering a zip code, and in most states, you also have the option to meet up with a local agent to discuss your plan options and sign on without making a commitment online.
Humana’s website is a great tool if you’re just beginning your search for a Medigap plan, as its pages are packed with information and tools that you can use to learn more about the differences between Medicare plans as well as estimate how much you’ll pay and how you can lower your premium.
Humana also allows policyholders to chat with a nurse over the phone and around the clock if you’re concerned about some facet of your health but aren’t sure if you should see a specialist or go to the emergency room.
If you’re overwhelmed with supplemental plan options and you’d like to learn more about Medicare itself before you begin thinking about which plan is right for you, Humana’s comprehensive site and human-assisted planning is a great choice to get started.
3. Blue Cross Blue Shield
Blue Cross Blue Shield is an umbrella corporation that provides insurance by working through over 30 established healthcare providers. An estimated 95 percent of hospitals and independent healthcare practices work with or contract services from Blue Cross Blue Shield, and plans are available in all 50 states.
If you live in a state that places restrictions on Medicare supplemental policies and you’re having a difficult time finding a plan offered in your state, Blue Cross Blue Shield will more than likely have a coverage option that suits your needs.
Like other providers, you can quickly search for quotes and plan options online through Blue Cross Blue Shield’s site. Blue Cross Blue Shield’s extensive network options also mean that you won’t need to switch physicians or primary care providers to use your benefits as long as your current provider already accepts Medicare.
Plans purchased through Blue Cross Blue Shield renew automatically so you don’t have to worry about losing coverage because you missed the annual enrollment date.
There are a number of ways to save through Blue Shield Blue Cross, including quitting smoking, setting up electronic payments for your premium costs and lowering your cholesterol level through diet and exercise. With a simple shopping system and easy-to-use online quote calculations, Blue Cross Blue Shield has quickly established itself as the star player in the Medigap arena.
Aetna’s Medicare supplement coverage options are somewhat limited when it comes to signing on. You cannot apply for coverage online; instead, you’ll need to call or see an in-person representative.
Aetna’s plan offerings are also little less expansive than some competitors, with choices to supplement five out of the 10 Medicare plans. If you want to cancel your plan with Aetna, you’ll also have to write a letter, which is an unusual restriction that may make it more difficult to cancel your coverage if you want to switch plans.
However, Aetna’s plans also cover more than many competitors, with 100% coverage for most costs on Medicare Plan A & B and even up to 80% coverage for travel emergencies. Many of Aetna’s plans also cover skilled nursing expenses, which is usually excluded from standard Medicare supplement plans. If you’re a big international traveler, Aetna’s plans might save you money in the long-term by helping protect you against high emergency bills abroad.
5. United Medicare Advisors
Still totally lost on Medicare supplement policies? Gotten quotes from a number of plan providers but you’re still not sure which is right for you? United Medicare Advisors may be able to help take some of the confusion out of the enrollment process.
United Medicare Advisors is not an insurance provider, but it can show you a comprehensive list of every policy provider that serves your area, helping you quickly compare policy options at a glance. United Medicare Advisors has connections with over 27 Medicare supplement insurance policy providers, and its system works in 45 states.
After supplying a little personal information about yourself, you can view a list of supplement policies available to you, costs and a list of inclusions and exclusions. United Medicare Advisors’ online database of insurance can help you get coverage soon, eliminating hours spent calling for plan options — and save you money in the process.
6. Best for Drug Inclusion: UnitedHealthcare
The AARP MedicareRx Walgreens plan covers an array of generic and brand-name drugs. You won’t have copayments on prescription drugs and no deductible on both Tier 1 and 2 drugs. You may also be eligible for $15 cost savings or more on select prescriptions. An AARP membership isn’t required to qualify for coverage.
This plan is most ideal if you live near a Walgreens because you’ll have to fill your prescriptions there. Use Walgreens’ online store finder to find a location near you.
Medicare can be confusing — and understanding exactly what type of supplemental coverage you need can be even more frustrating and time-consuming. However, like most other types of insurance, the best way to make sure that you’re getting the best rate possible is to request as many quotes as you can.
Every health insurance company uses its own unique formula to determine how much you’ll pay in monthly premiums, so it’s possible to get five totally different quotes from five different insurance companies.
Don’t be afraid to shop around for coverage and ask any agents you speak to how you can lower your premium — health insurance providers have a hefty financial incentive to sign on qualified users, so there’s usually a few discounts that can be found for you if you’re debating between two providers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: What are the different parts of Medicare?
Medicare has 4 parts named Parts A, B, C, and D. Part A provides hospitalization coverage while Part B provides outpatient coverage, like doctor visits. Parts A and B make up Medicare’s core coverages. Part C is provides private-market Medicare plans, called Medicare Advantage Plans. Part C coverage often includes additional benefits. Medicare Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs. Get a Medicare Insurance Quote through the top providers here.
2) Q: Is Medicare free?
Because there are 4 parts to Medicare, there can be different cost structures. Most people won’t have to pay for Medicare Part A (hospitalization). Eligibility for premium-free Part A is based on your work history during which you paid Medicare taxes. Many people do pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, however, which covers outpatient medical services, like doctor visits. Deductibles also apply to services covered under Medicare Parts A and B, so you’ll pay a part of the annual cost.
Medicare Parts C and D are optional coverages and have premium costs of their own. Medicare Part C refers to Medicare Advantage Plans that offer additional coverage in exchange for a monthly premium. Part D, the prescription plan, reduces the cost of medications but also requires a monthly premium. Subsidies may be available for low income households to help reduce overall Medicare costs.
3) Q: Do I need to sign up for Medicare?
If you signed up for Social Security before age 65, you were enrolled in Medicare automatically but benefits will begin at age 65. In most cases, there are penalties for not enrolling at age 65, so it pays to sign up on time. Click here to get a medicare quote in minutes from the best providers.
If you have employer coverage, you may be able to delay Medicare coverage while your work plan is still in force. However, the size of the employer determines whether you’ll pay a penalty for not enrolling at age 65. Employees (and their spouses) of companies that offer group health insurance to 20 or more people are usually exempt from late sign-up penalties if they are covered by the employer’s plan.