Medicare Supplement or Advantage Plan? More details

I want to follow up my November 6, 2014 post with additional details to provide more specificity to my comments.

As I pointed out last week, it isn’t necessary to have Medicare additional insurance.  People can choose “Traditional Medicare” in which they must cover the 20% Medicare co-pay by themselves.    It costs nothing in a year during which you have no medical issues.  It can, though, without warning, cost lots of money if you have an accident or need an operation, for example.  You could pay 20% of $0 or 20% of $200,000, or 20% of any amount depending on what happens to you during that year.  Before choosing traditional Medicare, you must decide whether you wish to assume the risk of a big surprise in health costs during the coming year.

I pointed out that Advantage Plans generally are less expensive while supplements are generally more expensive.  My statement refers to the monthly premium.   depending on your plan and on your medical needs during the year.  There are also .

Advantage Plans are generally built like Health Maintenance Organization (HMOs.)  There are .  These will usually cost a little more.

Also,(granted, they won’t have a 20% co-pay like traditional Medicare.)  Usually, the lower the premium, the higher the co-pay (just like auto insurance.)  Supplements have no co-pay.

I wrote last week that, after a major illness or injury that requires rehabilitation therapy (“rehab,”) supplements usually are more generous than Advantage Plans.  That is generally true, but .  Advantage Plans will still have the ability to halt their rehab payments, but they are no longer supposed to base that decision on day-to-day progress reports.  (Anyone can have a bad day, right?)  The Advantage Plans must look at week-to-week comparisons or even bi-weekly comparisons.  Supplements generally give the full 100 days that are allowed in the Medicare rules.

So, my modified suggestions for choosing between Advantage Plans and supplements are:

I want to reiterate:  No matter your preference, seek out a Medicare insurance agent that represents more than one insurer.  Don’t just assume that the person at the table in your local grocery, pharmacy, or department store can give you all the options.  If the person at that table sells insurance for just one company, find someone else.

But, don’t go it alone.  Get help from an insurance broker.  These insurance plans are complicated, and there are many different choices among Advantage Plans and among supplements.  Let someone help you figure out your best options.  Their help doesn’t cost you anything.  They’re paid by the insurer you choose.

Choose your plan wisely.

Thank you to Mike Whitaker and Dan Bassani of for their help with this week’s installment.

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