Best Cheap South Carolina (SC) Medicare

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Contributor, Benzinga
Updated: July 22, 2021

Compare Medicare Advantage plans and quote side-by-side to get the best rate here.

Retirement is an interesting name to describe the time of life you’ve earned to control the events of your day. Before you set off to the golf course, tennis courts, hiking trails or beach, you need to get your health care in order. The sooner you check “sign up for Medicare” off your list, the sooner you’ll be able to get out and enjoy all the things the Palmetto State has to offer. Don’t let Medicare cause you stress.

The Best Medicare Plans in SC:

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a national health insurance program run by the federal government. It was created to provide health insurance for people 65 years and older. In addition to age, people with permanent disabilities, end-stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AMS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, qualify for Medicare benefits. 

Medicare is offered to those who qualify in 4 parts. You can choose 1 part or a combination of the parts:

Part A: Also known as “hospital insurance,” Part A helps you with hospital-related expenses. Those expenses include inpatient care, overnight hospital stays, care at a skilled nursing facility, home health care and hospice care. 

Part B: Commonly referred to as “medical insurance,” Part B assists you with outpatient expenses for doctor or nurse visits, services (X-rays and dialysis), tests and certain medical-related equipment.

Part C: Widely known as Medicare Advantage, Part C is an all-in-one plan that includes Part A, Part B and typically, Part D. With Medicare Advantage you get benefits through private health plans. If you sign up for Medicare Part C, you need to keep within the provider network.

Part D: Part D is your prescription drug coverage. As with private health care, you get reduced prices on prescription drugs. No matter what combination of Medicare Parts A and B you choose, you’ll also want to look into Medicare Part D plans. While Medicare Part C usually includes prescription drug coverage, it’s not always the case. Whatever you choose to get the health insurance coverage you need, make sure you consider all of the elements. 

Even with a government-funded program, the monthly premiums can take a toll on your budget. If your finances are running a little thin, you can get relief with Medicare supplemental insurance. Also known as Medigap, a Medicare supplement plan helps cover shortages found in regular Medicare insurance.

Legalities of Medicare in South Carolina

Medicare is a federal program so it is regulated by the U.S. government. The rules are the same no matter which state you call home. South Carolina’s Department on Aging offers information and assistance resources to those eligible for Medicare. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a free federally funded resource. SHIP offers extensive insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries. Families, friends and caregivers of Medicare beneficiaries can also access this program.

SHIP in South Carolina is also known as the Insurance Counseling Assistance and Referrals for Elders program, or I-Care. These programs offer important resources to help you determine which Medicare choices are best for you. SHIP isn’t associated with any brand of insurance. There’s no incentive for them to steer you toward one plan or another. Their help is unbiased. Cost and coverages often change from year to year with Medicare health and drug plans. It’s smart to take advantage of the counselors’ knowledge so you get what you need at a price you can afford.  

You can get SHIP counseling services locally by visiting GetCareSC.com and entering your ZIP code in the search feature to find the phone number of the nearest Department on Aging office. Give the agency a call and tell them that you’re interested in getting SHIP counseling.  

South Carolina’s Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) helps Medicare subscribers prevent, detect and report wrongdoings. The trained volunteers give you, your families and your caregivers the knowledge and tools to recognize fraud, errors and abuse. 

Types of Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Part A + Medicare Part B = Medicare Part C. Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage comes in these common forms:

HMO: A health maintenance organization (HMO) plan is a network of doctors and hospitals that provide care and services. A primary care physician (PCP), who you choose, coordinates your health services. If you need to see a specialist, you’ll need a referral from your PCP.

PPO: Similar to an HMO, a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan through Medicare is offered by a private insurance company. The difference is that you can see any professional in the network. Whereas with an HMO you need to choose a primary care physician to coordinate your care. 

PFFS: A private fee-for-service plan is offered by a private insurance company. Prices you pay for care are set by the plan. 

SNP: People with specific diseases or characteristics can get a special needs plan

HMO point of service: Unlike a traditional HMO, with an HMO point of service you don’t need to stick to a specific network for everything. You get out-of-network options for certain services. 

Medical savings account: This is a combination of a bank account and a high-deductible plan. Medicare deposits into an account. You use the money in that account to pay for your health care needs. 

While Medicare Advantage plans are similar to traditional health plans, not all companies offer coverage in every state. 

How to Sign Up for Medicare in SC

When you turn 65, you’re eligible for Medicare health insurance. When you’re 3 months from your 65th birthday, you need to sign up for Medicare — even if you’re not planning to retire and receive retirement benefits until later. As you’re filling out the online application, you can choose to opt-out of receiving cash retirement benefits. Through the online application you sign up for Medicare Part A and Part B. To avoid paying the premium you can decline Part B coverage. 

Medicare enrollment is available through the Social Security Administration. Medicare.gov and SSA.gov both provide convenient guides and helpful information when you’re ready to enroll in Medicare. Enter your zip code below to get the most affordable Medicare in South Carolina.

Average Cost of Medicare Advantage Plans in SC

You can find available plans in your area using Medicare.gov’s plan finder. After entering your ZIP code and answering a few simple questions, the site will show you plans. From there you compare up to 3 plans at a time. Entering the ZIP code for Beaufort (29906) yields the following results.

Plan NameCompanyAnnual Premium(approx.)Health DeductibleDrug DeductibleStar Rating (Out of 5 Stars)
Aetna Medicare Elite Plan (PPO)Aetna$1,735$1,000$04.5
AARP Medicare Advantage Essential (HMO-POS)UnitedHealthcare$1,735$0Drug coverage not included3.5
WellCare Compass (HMO)WellCare$1,900$0$435(Too new to be measured)
BlueCross Total (PPO)Blue Cross Blue Shield South Carolina$2,100$0$703.5
HumanaChoice R3392-002 (Regional PPO)Humana$2,650$0$344

The above table is an estimate only.  Copays for doctor visits and maximum out-of-pocket amounts aren’t included.

Best Medicare Insurance Providers in South Carolina

When choosing a Medicare plan, there’s a lot to think about. Most importantly, you need to consider your health care needs and how the different plans can meet those needs. Here are some solid options in SC for Medicare.

Humana Medicare Advantage
Best For
  • Medicare Advantage Plans

1. Best Overall in SC: Humana

Highly-rated by current members, J.D. Power and Newsweek, Humana offers a considerable amount of standard coverage. Its standard coverage includes doctor and specialist visits, preventive care (including vaccines), outpatient services, emergency transportation and medical supplies and equipment.

If Humana’s standard coverage is the cake, its worldwide emergency coverage, allowance for over-the-counter medications and products and rewards for healthy habits are the icing. And, Humana tops the icing off with sprinkles offering telehealth services.

WellCare Medicare
Best For
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Plans

2. Most Affordable in SC: WellCare

WellCare offers some of the most affordable plans in South Carolina. They tout low or no monthly premiums, money back in your Social Security check, prescription drug coverage, dental coverage, vision allowance, free fitness memberships and rides to doctor visits and pharmacies.

And, because they claim a fair share of the state’s health market, you won’t have to worry about being able to find in-network healthcare providers.

UnitedHealthCare Health Insurance
Best For
  • Same day coverage available

3. Best for AARP Members: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare offers AARP members more for their Medicare dollars. Plans feature low to no copays for doctor visits and prescription drugs, free dental and vision exams, personal support choosing and using your plan. Many of its plans also include a 24/7 nurse line, house calls and transportation.

AARP and UnitedHealthcare encourage overall wellness; enrollees get a gym membership and can earn rewards with Renew Active. 

Aetna Health Insurance
Best For
  • Member support

4. Best for Availability: Aetna

As one of the largest Medicare providers in South Carolina, Aetna is a highly accessible health care provider. It offers benefits that fit your life, enhance your total health and they’ve thrown in some surprising benefits for good measure. Many of its Medicare Advantage plans include dental and vision benefits. Benefits that fit your life include access to local resources, SliverSneakers membership and care management help.

Additionally, it’s focused on your total health offering prescription home delivery and 24/7 ask-a-nurse line. Plus, it offers a few surprises including over-the-counter health solutions (most at no extra cost) and meals delivered to you at home after a hospital stay.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance
Best For
  • Nationwide coverage
securely through Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Insurance's website

5. Best for Simplicity: Blue Cross Blue Shield South Carolina

Offering both HMO and PPO plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina won’t have you singing the blues. And that’s a good thing. It offers 2 plans to choose from so you don’t have to wade through a plethora of details to narrow your options. The plans deliver many benefits and extras.

With BCBSSC you’ll get predictable costs with low monthly premiums, prescription drug coverage, and a sizeable network of doctors and hospitals. It also offers dental, hearing and vision coverage. BCBSSC also gives you the means to keep fit with Silver&Fit which offers gym memberships or at-home fitness kits. 

Plan then Play 

Take care of your health and wellness now so you can fully enjoy your retirement. Medicare Advantage plans can help you do that with their many care and service options. Decide what you need and want, and find the plan that fits you best. Remember, you’re unique. The best South Carolina Medicare plan is the plan that’s best for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q
1) Q: What are the different parts of Medicare?
A

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.

Q
Q: Is Medicare free?
A

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.

Q
3) Q: Do I need to sign up for Medicare?
A

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.