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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.

Arizona Medicare Advantage Plans

According to the latest statistics, a huge amount amount of retired people find Arizona the best place to live because of the warm climate and medical facilities. Millions of residents are depending upon the Medicare for health and life insurances. Since basic Medicare plan doesn’t cover everything, people may want Medigap or Medicare advantage plans.

Arizona is only state which has the most amount of Medicare recipients. Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa are the largest cities of Arizona and there are about 15% Arizonians who are 65 years and up receiving Medicare and about 14% Arizonians receiving Medicare. Almost all seniors are dependent on Medicare benefits for health insurance. Among all the senior citizens, approximately 30% will choose the Arizona Medicare Advantage plans. The other 25% will choose Medigap plan instead. The remainder may have a different public or private coverage, but most do not just rely on Part A and Part B Medicare, because they want to ensure that health care costs remain affordable.

Anyone choosing Medicare insurance or any other type of health insurance needs to strike a balance between premiums and benefits. Medicare Advantage plans for Arizona are attractive because many still have a very low or even $ 0 premium surcharge. Medicare Advantage plans also include Part D drug coverage at no additional cost.

On the other hand, these cheaper plans have many co-pays and deductibles. Also many recipients operate on a tight budget during retirement. Everyone has their own plans for retirement, for some people it makes more sense to pay a hefty amount for the Medigap insurances that covers all the health expenses that are not originally covered in Medicare.

Interestingly, Medicare supplement insurance plans C and F are usually the most expensive but they are also the most popular among the people who purchase supplements.

As a beneficiary, you are free to enroll in any Medicare Advantage plans you like. All the plans offer health benefits under Part A and Part B both. Many Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drug coverage (Part D). Additional benefits can also be utilized by paying an extra cost on your Medicare advantage plan. You may qualify for these plans if you are entitled to Medicare Part A and enrolled in Medicare Part B.
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There are many private companies who offer Medigap plans for senior citizens. People can easily sign up for one of several Medicare advantage plans if they want to receive the most of their medical insurance coverage company. Keep in mind that if you are going for Medicare advantage plan, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.

Secondly, you must be living in the area where they have Medicare network providing advantage plans. Most Medicare Advantage plans have prescription drug coverage built into the plan. This is not always the case, because it may be what is called stand-alone Part D plan.

Many people join the Medicare advantage plan as soon they turn 65. This process is called open enrollment period when you have only six months to enroll in the plan. After registration, if you want to change your plan, you’ll have to wait until the annual election period, which occurs every year from October 15 to December 7th. During this time, you can switch plans or return to original Medicare options, for this year you will not be able to move out of your plan, or join a new Medicare Advantage plans for 2016 outside of that enrollment period.

Type of Medicare Advantage Plans:

Below listed are some of the main advantage plans available across the United States:

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO):
Health Maintenance Organization plan only allows  you to select certain doctors and hospitals within the network. Unless it’s an emergency, only then can you go to those approved locations. If you plan to visit someone outside your network, it will not be covered under your plan and it will be charged separately.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO):
Preferred Provider Organization plan allows you to save your money by selecting the specified doctor and healthcare provider or hospital. You will be required to pay a bit more if you wish to go to those that are not on the list of approved providers.

 Private Fee for Service (PPFS):
Private Fee for Service a plan which does not require you to go to an approved list of providers. Instead, you will have the choice to select any provider you want. The only drawback is that there are very few people who accepts the PPFS plan.

Special Needs Plans (SNPs):
Special Needs Plans are basically designed for the people who have some specific and severe disabilities and diseases. The list of accepted providers is made on the needs of the subscriber and who will be able to fulfill their needs.

Every Medicare advantage plan is created to operate on a network. It means that all health care providers will be located within a specific area. You are required to live in the local area if you want to get covered by a certain plan. If you move to a new area, you may change your provider or insurance plan, depending on where you moved and what type of network is used.

KFF Poll Shows Seniors More Negative About Health Care Reform

A poll conducted July 8-13 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and released last month shows that more American senior citizens view health care reform negatively than younger adults do, and that more seniors believe that national healthcare reform will hurt Medicare.

Overall, about half of all Americans view healthcare reform positively, an improvement over their initial reaction when the legislation was first passed in May, Forty-six percent of seniors view the reforms in a negative way, compared to 38% of seniors, who view the reforms favorably. Seventeen percent of respondents say they do not know enough about the new reforms to form either a negative or positive impression. More than one-third (35%), say that the new reforms will leave them worse off while 57% believe the reforms will either improve their access to health care or will make no difference.

Fifty-two percent of respondents over the age of 65 say that they are “disappointed” by the new legislation. Forty-five percent of respondents say they are confused by the new reforms. Only 30% of respondents describe themselves as “relieved” and 35% say they are “pleased” by the new legislation.

Nearly half of all respondents age 65 and older think that seniors will be worse off under the new reforms, and 43% believe that the Medicare program will suffer as the result of the legislation. Fifty-seven percent of senior respondents in the survey think the new reforms will make finding a doctor harder, and 53% of senior respondents think it will be harder for Medicare recipients to get the healthcare they need. Half of senior respondents also believe that the new law will increase out-of-pocket Medicare expenses.

The findings for the study can be found at the Kaiser Family Foundation Website (http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8084-F.pdf)

Medicare’s Star Ratings May Change Medicare Advantage Plans

Under new federal regulations, Medicare Advantage (MA) providers that earn a 4- or 5-star ranking from the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services will receive cash bonuses from the federal government. Star ratings are based on 33 independent criteria for health care plans and an additional 19 criteria for prescription drug plans (PDP).

This approach is likely to have an impact on all MA plans. Currently, the government pays MA providers about $8,800 per beneficiary, about $1,150 more per person, than it spends on traditional Medicare coverage. Although they are not required to, MA providers often use the extra funds to offer additional covered services, reduce premiums, co-pays or deductibles. These extras tend to make the MA plans more attractive to some seniors.

Beginning in 2011, however, this payment disparity will be eliminated. Instead, the extra cash will be used to fund the cash bonuses for MA plan providers. This will likely translate into some significant changes in the services provided under MA plans, and may also increase beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket expenses. MA plan providers will likely have to raise monthly premiums, co-pays and deductibles, or eliminate services currently being provided.

Initially, the star rating was designed to help seniors find high-quality plans from among potentially dozens of MA plan choices. Studies conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, indicate that about three-fourths of seniors choose a MA plan that is rated at 3.5 stars or less; and that only about 15 percent of MA enrollees live in a service area where a plan awarded four or more stars is available. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis showed that the cost of a Medicare Advantage plan is a beneficiary’s primary consideration rather than a plan’s overall service rating.

The new rules will grant MA plans that receive four or five stars a bonus of 1.5% on top of their regular Medicare payments, beginning in 2012. The bonus amount will rise to 5% by 2014. Bonuses tied to a provider’s star rating have raised a few questions, since many plans currently approved by Medicare, including new plans and small plans, have no star ratings.

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