Senior citizens are often uncertain about how to find an affordable health insurance plan that provides them with the coverage they need. Many retired people are concerned about the rising costs of medical expenses and the limitations of their existing health insurance coverage, which are good reasons to begin searching for affordable alternatives that offer top-notch coverage.
When most senior citizens reach the age of 65 they become eligible for health insurance coverage through Medicare. Some seniors may also qualify for Medicare coverage at an earlier age if they have certain medical conditions. However, Medicare coverage alone is not enough to cover the high cost of today's medical expenses. There are many instances where the federal health insurance plan does not cover the costs of medical care or prescription medication, making an additional insurance on top of Medicare desirable.
Supplemental Senior Health Insurance
Seniors use supplemental insurance coverage to pay for the medical services that Medicare does not cover, or only partially covers. These types of supplemental Medicare insurance plans are called Medigap insurance plans.
Medigap Insurance Plans
Private insurance companies offer Medigap health insurance plans. The cost of these supplemental insurance plans varies based on the specifics of the coverage, as well as the insurance company offering the plan. Examples of the different types of coverage in the individual plans include:
- Plan A provides the most basic coverage and is generally the most affordable plan
- Plan N requires a copayment for each visit to an office of a medical practitioner
- Plan L typically has lower premium payments, but has a high deductible, making out-of-pocket expenses higher and more unpredictable
The plan benefits offered to senior citizens of each state are regulated by the federal government. The federal regulations require every private insurance company offering Medigap health insurance policies to provide the same benefit coverage from state to state. This ensures that seniors receive the same level of benefits based on their specific policy type regardless of where they live.
As of 2011, there were ten levels of Medigap insurance plans offered, each providing the same level of care consistently throughout the United States. The plans are standardized using a system of letters which include from A through D, F, G and K through N.
Choosing a Medigap Plan
Every senior citizen must determine the best plan for his individual needs based on medical history and financial circumstances. Since this process is often confusing, each state provides free assistance to seniors trying to understand the different options and choose the best coverage for their specific needs.
If you need help choosing the best coverage for your individual situation, or have any questions regarding the healthcare system, contact the State Health Insurance Assistance program in your state. The program, known as SHIP, provides personalized, free counseling to seniors who receive Medicare, their families and caregivers.
To find the contact information for SHIP in your state:
- Click on the link for the Health Assistance Partnership above (SHIP in your state)
- Scroll down to the map of the United States on the bottom of the page
- Click on your state to see a box on the right hand side of the map with the contact information, including a link and telephone number
- A chart of Medigap standardized insurance plans A - N with the benefits of each plan included (provided by The Medicare Channel)
- The government website for Medicare provides information on the four different parts of Medicare, corresponding prescription drug plan coverage and the current Medicare premium rates.
- The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, provides healthcare and insurance plan information
Additional Help and Resources
Additional tools and resources provided by the AARP and other companies may help you decide what you are lacking and answer questions about your coverage. The right level of coverage could help save your assets and protect your family from loss in a crisis. Visit the following sites for more information:
- Rate Quotes: comparison shop for insurance.
- AARP: learn about healthcare for those under 64 (and their dependents) or supplemental insurance for individuals with Medicare by visiting the AARP site.
- Centers for Medicare Advocacy: a private, non-profit agency that offers legal assistance, education, and advocacy services to seniors and disabled individuals in need of healthcare.
- Medicare information site: find information regarding Medicare, Medigap and prescription drug plans.
- American Seniors Association: similar to the AARP, the ASA is an organization dedicated to senior support. It provide discounts on commonly used goods and services as well as information and help with Medicare, insurance, prescriptions discounts and travel.
Affordable Insurance Is Essential
For many older Americans, finding affordable senior health insurance is essential. It often means the difference between having adequate medical coverage and not being able to pay for necessary medical and prescription needs. While Medicare is affordable, it is not a comprehensive insurance plan, which makes finding the right affordable supplemental insurance an important step to ensuring quality care that you can actually pay for.