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The difference between Medicare and Medicare Supplement explained

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Be prepared for your open enrollment period by knowing the difference between Medicare and Medicare Supplement

When you turn 65 years old, information on Medicare and Medicare Supplement insurance will fill your mailbox and inbox. As you start doing your research, you’ll notice the wide array of choices make it difficult to decide which plans are beneficial for your lifestyle. To make sure you’re prepared, you’ll need an ultimate guide for Medicare and Medicare Supplement insurance. 

Erin Bueltel, Director of Product Solutions at Wellabe, answers questions you may have to help you get started.

What is the difference between Medicare and Medicare Supplement?

“Medicare is a federal government sponsored health plan that pays providers for medical services. This health plan has copays and deductibles set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on an annual basis, whereas Medicare Supplement plans help cover the costs of those copays and deductibles, depending on which plan the customer may select,” Bueltel says.

All U.S. citizens become eligible for Medicare when they reach age 65; however, those individuals with disabilities or end-stage renal disease who are under age 65 are also eligible for the program. Medicare has four parts – Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D – and each covers different expenses. Original Medicare includes Parts A and B, Medicare Advantage is Medicare Part C, and prescription coverage falls under Part D. 

If you’re 65 years old and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, you can apply for Medicare Supplement insurance, which is provided by private insurance companies. You cannot apply for Medicare Supplement insurance if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Medicare?

“Once enrolled in Medicare, you have multiple options for coverage,” Bueltel says. “You can use Original Medicare only, Original Medicare plus Medicare Supplement, or use a Medicare Advantage plan to pay your providers. Medicare has low monthly premiums and is broadly accepted at most providers and hospitals. Some disadvantages are that Original Medicare has out-of-pocket costs but can be covered by Medicare Supplement plans.”

Even though Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year,1 the best time to do so is during an open enrollment period that occurs within 6 months of your 65th birthday. That is when you can apply for a Medicare Supplement policy without having to answer health questions and can lock in the best rate.

What is the purpose of Medicare Supplement insurance?

The purpose of Medicare Supplement insurance is to provide extra coverage for out-of-pocket costs left after Medicare-eligible services. Each plan provides a range of benefits so you can choose which plan is best for you.

What things are not covered by Medicare?

“Medicare only pays for medical care received in both the hospital and outpatient setting,” Bueltel says. “Medicare doesn’t cover ambulance services, most dental services, glasses, contacts, hearing aids, or elective and cosmetic surgeries.” 

Will I need supplemental insurance for Medicare?

“You don’t need to have Medicare Supplement to get covered by Medicare. However, if you would like extra protection against the high costs of care, Medicare Supplement covers the costs of deductibles and copays when you need medical care,” Bueltel says. 

Visit Wellabe's Medicare Supplement page to learn more and find the right plan for your financial well-being.

1. If you are outside your open enrollment or guaranteed issue period, you are required to complete an enrollment application and will be subject to underwriting.

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