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What Really Is a “Medigap” Plan?

Many people confuse the term “Medicare Supplement Plans” with “Medigap Plans”. It should be noted that Medicare supplement plans fill in some gaps in coverage in original Medicare which is known as “Medigap”.

There are 10 standardized Medigap plans available for senior citizens, each marked with the letters A to N.  And these plans are only available through private insurance companies, and it is not necessary for the insurance companies to sell all the 10 Medicare supplement plans. Every insurance company selling Medicare Supplement policy have to offer at least Plan A and if they offer any other policy than they must also offer either Plan C or Plan F.

Please note that Medicare Supplement plans can be used only to pay Original Medicare expenses. These plans can be used to cover expenses that you may have in Part C Medicare. If you enroll in Medicare Advantage plan, you can keep your Medigap plan as long as you keep paying the monthly fee, but you will not be allowed to enjoy Medigap plans on the cost of Medicare advantage plans. There are few things that you need to keep in mind before going for Medigap plans.

First and foremost, the beneficiaries must be enrolled in Medicare Plan A and Plan B. Secondly, if the beneficiary has a Medicare advantage plan than they can apply for Medicare policy and you will have to leave Medicare Advantage plan before you can enroll in Medigap. These Medigap policies are only able to cover one person. If anyone from your family want to avail then they will have to enroll themselves.

Monthly premiums will have to be paid to private insurance companies in addition to monthly Plan B premium. You are not bound by any insurance company, you can select any insurance company you like that is licensed in your state. Each standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed renewable, even when suffering from health problems. This means that the company cannot cancel Medicare Supplement insurance contracts as long as you pay the premiums. Medicare supplement plans allow you to use any provider that can accept Medicare. Among all the states of America, Arizona is considered as one of the best places to live after retirement. Arizona provides the best Medicare and Medigap help to senior citizens.

There are two specific Medigap plans (Plan k and Plan L) which are capable of covering out of pocket limits, because once your basic health care costs reaches the limit, your Medigap plan will cover 100% of all the expenses for the rest of your year. It is worth mentioning that original Medicare don’t have the ability to include a yearly out of pocket limit. Remember, Medicare supplement plan is meant to work side by side with your original Medicare coverage. You only need to remain enrolled in original Medicare to take the benefits of Medigap.

Although private insurers are required to offer the same benefits for each Medicare plan, these companies can change the costs of premiums they charge for this coverage. So if you are looking for Medigap coverage, you must contact different insurance companies to find a Medicare Supplement plan that is appropriate for your medical and financial needs. Remember that insurance companies use different methods to price their Medigap plans. Pricing method that company uses may affect the amount of premium you pay when you first enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, as well as your long-term costs.

Medigap can be used only by people enrolled in traditional Medicare only. It is not a Government-run program but you can buy private insurance to cover some or most of your expenses in traditional Medicare. Medicare advantage plans consist of variety of private health plans for every type of needs. HMOs and PPOs are the most commonly used among the beneficiaries. Most of the plans include drug prescription coverage at no extra cost. Some plans are capable of covering routine hearing and vision services but not all. By law, all plans have annual limits for out-of-pocket costs.

Another difference from the traditional program is that most plans require you to go to the doctors and hospitals within their network and if you want to go out of the network, you will have to pay extra.

If you enroll in Medicare Advantage health plan, you can’t use a Medigap policy to cover your expenses, and it is illegal to sell insurance Medigap policy if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. If you want to stay in traditional Medicare, you will need a separate Part D plan to get prescription drug coverage and pay an extra premium for it. A Medigap does not cover drugs outputs of- pocket.

Some states even offer Medigap plans for beneficiaries under 65 years of age who are eligible for Medicare because of disability or under certain conditions. Federal law doesn’t allow states to sell Medicare Supplement insurance for under 65 years, but depending on where you live, some states offer Medigap coverage for beneficiaries under 65 years of age. Every state can have its own eligibility criteria and terms. If you are a Medicare beneficiary under 65 years of age and interested in purchasing a Medicare Supplement insurance, contact your state insurance department to find out if you qualify for Medigap coverage in your state or not.

Differences Between Medicare and Medigap

One of the benefits of our medicine system is there are tools the elderly can use to take better care of themselves. The main thing which confuses seniors is the difference between Medigap and Medicare and which plan is the best for them.

It is extremely important to realize the fact that Medicare is not sufficient to cover all your medical expenses. This is the reason why Medicare supplements are created to fill the gaps in between the original Medicare coverage. These Medicare supplements are also known as Medigap insurance. Every state can differ in terms of Medigap policies, the Medigap plans in Arizona are regulated by the State of Arizona and the federal government.
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There are basically twelve (12) standardized Medicare Supplement plans naming from (A to L) that is covering the entire United States. These 12 Medicare supplements plans have their own set of basic and extra benefits. All insurance companies are obliged to sell Plan A and B as a rule of law. One thing which is common among the Medigap plans is that you cannot be charged differently from others in a particular state for a Medigap insurance plan. For example, if you pay $200 amount for Plan D in Miami, everyone will be paying the exact same amount everywhere in United States. Your Medicare supplements can only cover your expenses, you will have to buy separate policy even for your spouse.

One thing should be kept in mind is you don’t need to buy Medigap insurance policy if you are covered under a group of health insurance plan. And it is not necessary that all 12 plans may be available in all the areas.

Differences between Medigap and Medicare

Many people confuse themselves with the Medicare and Medigap advantages. Basically, Medigap refers to a bunch of supplemental insurance plans that works with the combination of regular medical benefits. Many medical options such as hospital accommodation or international transport are usually not covered in Medicare plans however they are covered in Medigap plans.

Expensive payments are also often covered in Medigap that are charged to Medicare patients without Medigap. Different insurance companies which sell Medigap plans give the same benefits all over the country. Insurance companies can be different but the policies, terms and conditions and the benefits will be same all across the United States. Another thing to keep in mind is that Medicare advantage plans replaces the original Medicare because these Medicare plans are run by private companies and must be able to provide the same coverage as Medicare A and Medicare B.

Some Medicare advantage plans also offer dental, vision, ENT or prescription coverage. Medicare plans are usually much cheaper than Medigap plans, if you are short on funds or you have planned to settle at one place, than Medicare is the best choice for you.

According to the latest research, Medigap plans are typically more expensive than the Medicare advantage plans. Medigap offers a variety of additional coverage to Medicare whereas the coverage of Medicare and Medicare advantage is almost same. Medicare offers a smaller network of doctors but Medigap allows the access to a larger network of doctors. In short, Medicare is recommended for those who are on a tight budget and if your pocket allows you than you must go for Medigap.

Medigap and Medicare plans have same prices almost across whole of the United States and these prices are set using the below mentioned three methods:

Community-Rated method: This method charges everyone the same premium regardless of their age or sex.

Age-Rated method: This method sets the price based on your age when you purchase the plan.

Attained-Age-Rated method: This method will increase the cost each year as you age.

Before buying any plan for yourself, you should understand the levels of coverage from (A-L). Plan F covers everything that Medicare fails to cover, so you do not have to pay any extra costs for doctor/hospital. Lower levels of coverage involve a corresponding lower premiums but doesn’t fill like the Plan F. Another thing to remember is that only you can determine which is the best plan for you as there several type of “pay now or pay later” plans. For example, Pay Now Medigap plans are the most expensive each month. however they will save you a great portion of money if you need extensive medical treatment or service. If you think that your budget can afford a Medigap plan, than they are the best way to protect your health. Pay Later Medicare will always seem to be less expensive in short run because of their lower monthly premiums. Extra services including hospital accommodation, transport or other prescriptions are much more expensive with Medicare plans than with the Medigap plans.

If you are interested in any of the Medicare or Medigap plans, visit AZ Medicare, the best Medicare insurance for Arizona residents. For senior citizens, Medicare only covers 80% after your deductibles have been paid. Medicare plans usually don’t include Plan D which is the drug plan, but it may be included in your Medigap plans.

Medicare advantage plans further include several types of plans, some of which are:

Health maintenance Organization (HMO) plan: Your choice is restricted for hospitals and doctors in this plan, except for emergencies.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan: You can choose doctors or hospitals outside the scope but it will cost you more in addition to the medical care within PPO.

Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plan: You are free to select your hospital or doctor in any way you want. The plan will determine the sharing of expenses.

Shedding Light On Arizona’s Medigap Policies

In Arizona, medical beneficiaries who are in need of help for paying Medicare expenses must consider enrolling in a Medicare Supplement Plan known as Medigap Plan. It must be noted that Medigap plans are available through private insurance companies, not only in Arizona but in every state across U.S.

Medigap plans generally help with the expenses which are incurred under original Medicare plans which are Plan A and Plan B. Medigap plans are now almost same across all of the United States in terms of both policies and cost. For those of you who are not sure about the number of Medigap plans, just know that there are 10 standardized Medigap plans available in all of the states. The plans are labelled from A to N where Plan A and Plan B are the most basic plans which every state offers under the rule of federal administration.

If you are already enrolled original Medicare Plan A and B, then you are eligible to sign up for Medigap Plans. Not many people know but the best time to buy a Medicare Supplement plan is during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This period starts as soon as you reach the age of 65 and is also enrolled in Medicare Plan B. Individuals can sign up for any Medigap plans during this time according to the plans available in their state. The important thing to keep in mind is that there are no additional enrollment periods besides each of theirs Medigap Open Enrollment Period.

In Arizona and across all of the United States, Medigap plans doesn’t include prescription drug coverage, so you have to enroll in a Part D plan for prescription for separate Medicare to cover the cost of medicines or drugs. Prescription drug plans for Medicare Part D in Arizona are available through private insurance companies.
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It has been observed through the survey that Arizona is the most famous destination to retire. Surprisingly, above a million residents of Arizona are dependent on the Medicare for their main source of health insurance.While no revolutionary changes in Medicare supplement insurance is scheduled for 2016, there are some things to keep in mind which may affect the safety and availability of certain plans.

Here is the possible increase in premiums and Part B deductible. For example, Plan C, Plan F, and high deductible Plan F covers Part B deductible, so if the increased rates for these popular supplements may also increase. In Arizona, all the Medicare Supplement Plans must conform to the standards set by the Medicare Organization. Supplement standards include names from A to N. Each supplement offers basic benefits like coinsurance and blood donations. The only thing to remember is that every supplement is identical from one or another insurance company. In order to determine rates, you must compare different insurers providing Medigap plans however there should not be a big difference because of the Arizona Medigap Policy.  It is important that you familiarize yourself before  with the Medigap plan as well as each and every plan before you make any purchase. 

Supplement Plan F is the most comprehensive among the 10 other plans, covering almost 100 % of Medicare related costs. But even for Medicare Supplement Plan F recipients in Arizona can still incur some out – of -pocket expenses such as Medicare Part B premium.

As soon as you reach the age of 65, you need only a phone call to buy Medigap policy and get excellent coverage without question. And if you buy a policy in the first six months of enrolling in Medicare, you do not have to answer questions about your health. Do not worry if your doctors are not in the network, because you will be covered if you see any doctor who accepts Medicare.

Many people don’t realize the fact that how much they will be spending if they will be selecting the plan which covers the entire Medigap plans. There are total of 10 Medigap plans and each one has its own benefit. The four most comprehensive plans are C, D, F and G which account for more than 60% of all the Medigap sales according to Kaiser Family Foundation research. Plan F, the most expensive among all of them and covers every Medicare gap represents 40% of all policies sold. If your health is good than you must consider a plan which is not much comprehensive for e.g. Plan N and L are good choices because they will save you around $200 to $400 a year.

Medicare and Medigap benefits are identical in all 50 states, however policies and pricing rules may differ (Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin have their own standardized plans). If you know the rules in your state,  this may save you money.  You can choose when to upgrade an existing plan to switch to another insurer or drop your current Medicare plan during the annual open enrollment to change Medigap policies.

Most of the people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, although some beneficiaries can get Medicare even before if they have some kind of disability. You will automatically get Medicare as soon as you turn 65 if you are already receiving Social Security benefits. Otherwise, you will have to enroll in Medicare during the enrollment period.

There are also many private Medicare options available if you are a Medicare beneficiary in Arizona. Medicare coverage like drug prescription and supplemental coverage are only available through private insurance companies. Your private Medicare options will depend on where you live and the plans available in your area. We hope you found this article helpful as we shed light on Arizona’s Medigap policies. If you are an Arizona resident, feel free to contact www.azmedicare.info for further details. 

Medicare Part D Premiums Will Jump In 2011

For Medicare enrollees who are hoping to catch a break on their prescription drug costs, 2011 doesn’t hold out much promise. Industry analysts say that most major Part D prescription drug plans will increase their premiums for coverage in the 2011 year. Right now, Medicare Part D enrollees pay about $32 on average per month for prescription drug benefits, but a study conducted by Avalere Health says Part D subscribers should plan to pay about 10% more for prescription coverage in 2011.

Part D premiums aren’t limited, so some prescription drug plan costs could rise much more than average. The study cites one plan whose premiums will increase by nearly half for 2010. Avalere Health reviewed the top 10 Part D prescription drug plans, which serve about 70% of beneficiaries who are enrolled in the optional coverage plans.

The study also estimates that about 3 million Part D subscribers will need to switch their current Part D plan for 2011. Most of those beneficiaries should be able to find comparable coverage with their current provider, but about 300,000 beneficiaries may need to find a new provider altogether. Federal regulations require that Part De providers consolidate coverage into “non-duplicative plans” but some industry analysts say that consolidation may mean some beneficiaries will see higher premiums if they stay with their current insurer.

The AARP will eliminate its MedicareRx Saver plan, requiring about 1.5 million subscribers to enroll is the organization’s MedicareRx Preferred plan, which has a premium cost that is 15% higher than the Saver plan. Those already enrolled in the Preferred plan will see a drop of about 11% in the cost of their annual premiums.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say the concern could be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. According to the agency’s figures, most Medicare Part D subscribers will see an average increase of no more than 3% (about $1) per month in their premium costs, even if they need to switch plans.

One reason for the increase in premiums is the improved “gap” coverage beneficiaries will receive beginning in 2011. In the past, seniors who exceeded pre-established spending limits on prescription drug benefits had to pay the entire cost of their prescriptions until they became eligible for catastrophic drug coverage. Beginning this year, those who exceed the plan limits on spending will be eligible to buy prescription drugs at a reduced rate while in the coverage gap. By 2020, the gap should be entirely eliminated.

Medicare Advantage Premiums To Decrease For 2011

In something of a surprise announcement, Donald Berwick, Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says that premiums for Medicare Advantage plans will decrease slightly in 2011. Berwick says that the monthly costs for MA plans for more than 11 million enrollees will drop by about 1%. In addition, enrollees should see some relief from the cost of prescription drugs and the continuation of certain no-cost preventative health care services.

In 2009, premiums for Medicare Advantage plans increased by an average of 15%. Berwick and other Medicare officials say that the health care reform act has provided the Medicare and Medicaid Service with additional negotiating power. Initially, officials used their newfound clout to drop about 300 previously approved Medicare insurance plans offered by private providers. According to Medicare officials, the rejected plans increased out-of-pocket costs without increasing benefits or covered services.

Most of the insurers then modified the plans to provide additional services at reduced costs. Upon reconsideration of the new offers, Medicare approved most of the 300 rejected plans. Fewer than ten of the original 300 rejected plans did not modify their initial proposed coverage, improve their benefits or reduce beneficiaries’ proposed out-of-pocket expenses. Upon review, these plans were rejected a second time and will not be offered in 2011.

Some analysts say that insurance providers are more willing to negotiate with Medicare because they are more dependent now upon Medicare premiums than they had been in the past; a large number of new enrollees are expected in the next decade; and the new health care legislation will open new opportunities for providers in the coming years.

Seniors who have elected Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) can also expect to see some decreases in their out-of-pocket expenses if they have significant prescription costs in 2011. The relief comes as part of the Obama Administration’s effort to eliminate the “donut hole” gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. Reduced out-of-pocket expenses for Part D benefits will not translate into lower Part D premiums, however. Part D premiums are expected to rise in 2011 for most prescription drug plans.

Health Net Ordered To Suspend Arizona Medicare Advantage Enrollments

Health NetHealth Net, a provider of Arizona Medicare Advantage plans was ordered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cease Medicare enrollment in its programs on November 19. 2010.  The order is part of a sanction imposed by CMS for the improper administration of Medicare Part D plans offered by the health insurance provider.  The sanction affects enrollments in both the company’s Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, and came just days after the Open Enrollment period began for 2011.

Eligible beneficiaries who are already enrolled in a Health Net Medicare Advantage plan and do not wish to change may remain enrolled in their current plan, but may not elect new plans until the sanctions are lifted.  CMS issued an immediate suspension directed toward Health Net because the agency says that Health Net continued to misadminister its Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Part D plans, despite having been warned about its faulty practices during a routine audit of the program.

Health Net has more than 660,000 beneficiaries enrolled in Maricopa and Pima counties. Health Net must now demonstrate that it is in compliance with CMS regulations regarding Medicare Part D benefit administration and that it has taken sufficient steps to ensure that it will remain in compliance.  Once CMS is satisfied with the company’s changes, Health Net will again be allowed to accept new enrollments in its Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans.

“Health Net takes our obligations to our Medicare members seriously,” said Jay Gellert, president and chief executive officer of Health Net, Inc. “Our priority is to help ensure our Medicare members have access to quality health care, customer service and the prescription drugs they need.”

Gellert added, “We are working closely with CMS to resolve these matters as quickly as possible. We hope in the next months we can demonstrate to CMS that we have successfully addressed the issues they have raised. We are committed to the Medicare program and look forward to serving new Medicare beneficiaries once again.”

The sanctions make it unlikely that Health Net will be available as a choice for Arizona Medicare Advantage enrollees during the 2011 Open Enrollment period, which began November 15, 2010 and closes December 31, 2010.

Arizona Medicare Advantage Providers Will Benefit From Bonus Plan

A recently announced bonus plan designed to reward outstanding Medicare Advantage Plans will also give a boost to average Arizona Medicare Advantage plan providers.  The original design for the bonus structure offered additional incentive payments for plans that achieved a four- or five-star ranking from the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) beginning in 2012.  Changes to the bonus structure will enable three star plans to receive some incentive payments as well.

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