If you decide to sign up for a Medigap policy, a good time to do so is during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, a six-month period that typically starts the month you turn 65 and have Medicare Part B. If you enroll in a Medigap plan during this period, you can’t be turned down or charged more because of any health conditions. But if you apply for a Medigap plan later on, you may be subject to medical underwriting; your acceptance into a plan isn’t guaranteed.


Part A's inpatient admitted hospital and skilled nursing coverage is largely funded by revenue from a 2.9% payroll tax levied on employers and workers (each pay 1.45%). Until December 31, 1993, the law provided a maximum amount of compensation on which the Medicare tax could be imposed annually, in the same way that the Social Security payroll tax works in the U.S.[16] Beginning on January 1, 1994, the compensation limit was removed. Self-employed individuals must pay the entire 2.9% tax on self-employed net earnings (because they are both employee and employer), but they may deduct half of the tax from the income in calculating income tax.[17] Beginning in 2013, the rate of Part A tax on earned income exceeding US$200,000 for individuals (US$250,000 for married couples filing jointly) rose to 3.8%, in order to pay part of the cost of the subsidies mandated by the Affordable Care Act.[18]
If you have special health care or financial needs, you may qualify for a Special Needs Plan. All Special Needs Plans include drug coverage. Other benefits may include coordination of care, transportation to and from medical appointments, credits to buy everyday health items, and routine vision and dental coverage. There are four main types of Special Needs Plans:
Medigap plans work differently than Advantage plans. Mostly, when you have an Advantage plan, you will use that instead of Part A and Part B. In contrast, Medicare supplement plans work with your basic benefits to fill in some gaps for coinsurance. The advantages of supplements are that they don’t rely upon plan networks and offer stable benefits from year to year. You can use your supplement all over the country, and in some cases, for urgent medical services outside of the country.
There are two options commonly used to replace or supplement Original Medicare. One option, called Medicare Advantage plans, are an alternative way to get Original Medicare. The other option, Medicare Supplement (or  Medigap) insurance plans work alongside your Original Medicare coverage. These plans have significant differences when it comes to costs, benefits, and how they work. It’s important to understand these differences as you review your Medicare coverage options.
In 2002, payment rates were cut by 4.8%. In 2003, payment rates were scheduled to be reduced by 4.4%. However, Congress boosted the cumulative SGR target in the Consolidated Appropriation Resolution of 2003 (P.L. 108-7), allowing payments for physician services to rise 1.6%. In 2004 and 2005, payment rates were again scheduled to be reduced. The Medicare Modernization Act (P.L. 108-173) increased payments 1.5% for those two years.
Robert M. Ball, a former commissioner of Social Security under President Kennedy in 1961 (and later under Johnson, and Nixon) defined the major obstacle to financing health insurance for the elderly: the high cost of care for the aged combined with the generally low incomes of retired people. Because retired older people use much more medical care than younger employed people, an insurance premium related to the risk for older people needed to be high, but if the high premium had to be paid after retirement, when incomes are low, it was an almost impossible burden for the average person. The only feasible approach, he said, was to finance health insurance in the same way as cash benefits for retirement, by contributions paid while at work, when the payments are least burdensome, with the protection furnished in retirement without further payment.[97] In the early 1960s relatively few of the elderly had health insurance, and what they had was usually inadequate. Insurers such as Blue Cross, which had originally applied the principle of community rating, faced competition from other commercial insurers that did not community rate, and so were forced to raise their rates for the elderly.[98]
Generally, Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, younger people with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant). Medicare has two parts, Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medicare Insurance). You are eligible for premium-free Part A if you are age 65 or older and you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. You can get Part A at age 65 without having to pay premiums if:
If you have Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement plan, Original Medicare will pay first, and your Medigap policy will fill in the cost gaps. For example, suppose you have a $5,000 ambulance bill, and you have already met the yearly Medicare Part B deductible. Medicare Part B will pay 80% of your ambulance bill. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan that covers Part B copayments and coinsurance costs, then your Medigap policy would then pay the remaining 20% coinsurance of your $5,000 ambulance bill. Some Medicare Supplement plans may also cover the Part B deductible.

Plan Benefits Plan A Plan B Plan C Plan F2 Plan G Plan K Plan L Plan N Medicare Part A coinsurance and coverage for hospital benefits Included Included Included Included Included Included Included $20 copay for office visits; $50 copay for ER Medicare Part B coinsurance or copayment Included Included Included Included Included 50% 75% Included Blood (first three pints) Included Included Included Included Included 50% 75% Included Hospice Care coinsurance or copayment Included Included Included Included Included 50% 75% Included Skilled Nursing Facility Care coinsurance Included Included Included 50% 75% Included Medicare Part A deductible Included Included Included Included 50% 75% Included Medicare Part B deductible Included Included Medicare Part B excess charges Included Included Foreign Travel Emergency (up to plan limits) Included Included Included Included


The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989 made several changes to physician payments under Medicare. Firstly, it introduced the Medicare Fee Schedule, which took effect in 1992. Secondly, it limited the amount Medicare non-providers could balance bill Medicare beneficiaries. Thirdly, it introduced the Medicare Volume Performance Standards (MVPS) as a way to control costs.[56]
This absolutely varies by region. Since Medicare supplement insurance plans are standardized, you don’t have to worry about benefits being different. This means you’ll want to scout out the Medicare gap plans with the lowest rates in your area. The best supplemental insurance rates will be different in each state, and your age, gender, tobacco usage and eligibility for household discount also affect your rate.
With the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare beneficiaries were formally given the option to receive their Original Medicare benefits through capitated health insurance Part C health plans, instead of through the Original fee for service Medicare payment system. Many had previously had that option via a series of demonstration projects that dated back to the early 1970s. These Part C plans were initially known in 1997 as "Medicare+Choice". As of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, most "Medicare+Choice" plans were re-branded as "Medicare Advantage" (MA) plans (though MA is a government term and might not even be "visible" to the Part C health plan beneficiary). Other plan types, such as 1876 Cost plans, are also available in limited areas of the country. Cost plans are not Medicare Advantage plans and are not capitated. Instead, beneficiaries keep their Original Medicare benefits while their sponsor administers their Part A and Part B benefits. The sponsor of a Part C plan could be an integrated health delivery system or spin-out, a union, a religious organization, an insurance company or other type of organization.
Part B coverage includes outpatient physician services, visiting nurse, and other services such as x-rays, laboratory and diagnostic tests, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations, blood transfusions, renal dialysis, outpatient hospital procedures, limited ambulance transportation, immunosuppressive drugs for organ transplant recipients, chemotherapy, hormonal treatments such as Lupron, and other outpatient medical treatments administered in a doctor's office. It also includes chiropractic care. Medication administration is covered under Part B if it is administered by the physician during an office visit.
When looking at coverage choices, there’s a lot to consider. You may enroll in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), Medicare Part B (medical insurance) or both. Once you enroll in Original Medicare (Parts A & B), you may have other coverage choices, too, such as a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), a Medicare Prescription Drug plan (Part D) or a Medicare Supplement insurance plan (Medigap).

You should be informed before buying. If you’re reading this guide, that’s a good start. And in general you should be a skeptical buyer, although Medigap insurance is heavily regulated. Still, shopping for insurance can be exhausting, but the best companies make the process as streamlined as possible. Look for a company that caters to your needs, such as a physical office for a face-to-face meeting, a helpful customer service representative on the phone, or online chat.
The Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (or Relative Value Update Committee; RUC), composed of physicians associated with the American Medical Association, advises the government about pay standards for Medicare patient procedures performed by doctors and other professionals under Medicare Part B.[15] A similar but different CMS process determines the rates paid for acute care and other hospitals—including skilled nursing facilities—under Medicare Part A. The rates paid for both Part A and Part B type services under Part C are whatever is agreed upon between the sponsor and the provider. The amounts paid for mostly self administered drugs under Part D is whatever is agreed up between the sponsor (almost always through a pharmacy benefit manager also used in commercial insurance) and pharmaceutical distributors and/or manufacturers.
Some beneficiaries are dual-eligible. This means they qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. In some states for those making below a certain income, Medicaid will pay the beneficiaries' Part B premium for them (most beneficiaries have worked long enough and have no Part A premium), as well as some of their out of pocket medical and hospital expenses.
This concept is basically how public Medicare Part C already works (but with a much more complicated competitive bidding process that drives up costs for the Trustees, but is very advantageous to the beneficiaries). Given that only about 1% of people on Medicare got premium support when Aaron and Reischauer first wrote their proposal in 1995 and the percentage is now 35% on the way to 50% by 2040 according to the Trustees, perhaps no further reform is needed.
Popular opinion surveys show that the public views Medicare's problems as serious, but not as urgent as other concerns. In January 2006, the Pew Research Center found 62 percent of the public said addressing Medicare's financial problems should be a high priority for the government, but that still put it behind other priorities.[91] Surveys suggest that there's no public consensus behind any specific strategy to keep the program solvent.[92]
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