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If you plan to travel a lot or simply want to choose doctors without concerns over only picking providers on an HMO or PPO network, you might compare Medigap plans. With a supplement, you will have to buy Medicare Part D to cover most prescription medications. This may cost somewhat more, but some folks prefer to choose their drug plan separately from the rest of their medical benefits.
All insurance companies that sell Medigap policies are required to make Plan A available, and if they offer any other policies, they must also make either Plan C or Plan F available as well, though Plan F is scheduled to sunset in the year 2020. Anyone who currently has a Plan F may keep it. Many of the insurance companies that offer Medigap insurance policies also sponsor Part C health plans but most Part C health plans are sponsored by integrated health delivery systems and their spin-offs, charities, and unions as opposed to insurance companies. The leading sponsor of both public Part C heatlh plans and private Medigap plans is AARP.
Medicare has been operated for just over a half century and, during that time, has undergone several changes. Since 1965, the program's provisions have expanded to include benefits for speech, physical, and chiropractic therapy in 1972. Medicare added the option of payments to health maintenance organizations (HMO) in the 1970s. As the years progressed, Congress expanded Medicare eligibility to younger people with permanent disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments and to those with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The association with HMOs that began in the 1970s was formalized and expanded under President Bill Clinton in 1997 as Medicare Part C (although not all Part C health plans sponsors have to be HMOs, about 75% are). The "C" stands for Choice (but of course it is also the third Part of Medicare). In 2003, under President George W. Bush, a Medicare program for covering almost all self-administered prescription drugs was passed (and went into effect in 2006) as Medicare Part D (previously and still, professionally administered drugs such as chemotherapy but even the annual flu shot—which was first covered under President George H. W. Bush—are covered under Part B).
Keep in mind that Medigap plans don’t include prescription drug coverage (Part D), so if you want help with your medication costs, you’ll need to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. In addition, you can’t use your Medicare Supplement plan to pay for costs you may have with a Medicare Advantage plan. Medigap insurance can only be used to cover costs in Original Medicare.
Enrollment in public Part C health plans, including Medicare Advantage plans, grew from about 1% of total Medicare enrollment in 1997 when the law was passed (the 1% representing people on pre-law demonstration programs) to about 36% in 2018. Of course the absolute number of beneficiaries on Part C has increased even more dramatically on a percentage basis because of the large increase of people on Original Medicare since 1997. Almost all Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least two public Medicare Part C plans; most have access to three or more.
Medicare has four basic parts: A, B, C, and D. Taken together, Parts A (hospital care), B (doctors, medical procedures, equipment), and D (prescription drugs) provide basic coverage for Americans 65 and older. What's relevant for this article is what these parts don't cover, such as deductibles, co-pays, and other medical expenses that could wipe out your savings should you become seriously ill. That's where Part C comes in. Also known as Medicare Advantage, it's one of two ways to protect against the potentially high cost of an accident or illness. The other option is Medicare Supplement Insurance, also called Medigap coverage. Here's a look at the two options.
Payment for physician services under Medicare has evolved since the program was created in 1965. Initially, Medicare compensated physicians based on the physician's charges, and allowed physicians to bill Medicare beneficiaries the amount in excess of Medicare's reimbursement. In 1975, annual increases in physician fees were limited by the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). The MEI was designed to measure changes in costs of physician's time and operating expenses, adjusted for changes in physician productivity. From 1984 to 1991, the yearly change in fees was determined by legislation. This was done because physician fees were rising faster than projected.
**NY: In New York, the Excess Charge is limited to 5%; PA and OH: Under Pennsylvania and Ohio law, a physician may not charge or collect fees from Medicare patients which exceed the Medicare-approved Part B charge. Plans F and G pay benefits for excess charges when services are rendered in a jurisdiction not having a balance billing law; TX: In Texas, the amount cannot exceed 15% over the Medicare approved amount or any other charge limitation established by the Medicare program or state law. Note that the limiting charge applies only to certain services and does not apply to some supplies and durable medical equipment; VT: Vermont law generally prohibits a physician from charging more than the Medicare approved amount. However, there are exceptions and this prohibition may not apply if you receive services out of state.
Medicare Part B premiums are commonly deducted automatically from beneficiaries' monthly Social Security checks. They can also be paid quarterly via bill sent directly to beneficiaries. This alternative is becoming more common because whereas the eligibility age for Medicare has remained at 65 per the 1965 legislation, the so-called Full Retirement Age for Social Security has been increased to 66 and will go even higher over time. Therefore, many people delay collecting Social Security but join Medicare at 65 and have to pay their Part B premium directly.
Chemotherapy and other medications dispensed in a physician's office are reimbursed according to the Average Sales Price, a number computed by taking the total dollar sales of a drug as the numerator and the number of units sold nationwide as the denominator. The current reimbursement formula is known as "ASP+6" since it reimburses physicians at 106% of the ASP of drugs. Pharmaceutical company discounts and rebates are included in the calculation of ASP, and tend to reduce it. In addition, Medicare pays 80% of ASP+6, which is the equivalent of 84.8% of the actual average cost of the drug. Some patients have supplemental insurance or can afford the co-pay. Large numbers do not. This leaves the payment to physicians for most of the drugs in an "underwater" state. ASP+6 superseded Average Wholesale Price in 2005, after a 2003 front-page New York Times article drew attention to the inaccuracies of Average Wholesale Price calculations.
Dig into the details of plans that look promising—you want to make sure your medical treatment will actually be covered. Call the insurance companies or check their websites to learn what doctors and hospitals are in the plan’s network. Then double-check this information by calling your healthcare providers directly to make sure they take that insurance plan.
Most agents will know what you mean when you ask about Part F, but here’s an easier way to remember the right words. Just remind yourself that Medicare itself has Parts, and there are only 4 of those Parts – A, B, C, and D. There’s no such thing as Part F! Many online articles will use the wrong term on purpose, because they know that consumers like you are sometimes search on the wrong term. All Supplement insurances are called Plans. So instead of calling it Medicare Part F or Part F Coverage say Medigap Plan F. Then you’ll be right on track.
In 2018, Medicare provided health insurance for over 59.9 million individuals—more than 52 million people aged 65 and older and about 8 million younger people. On average, Medicare covers about half of healthcare expenses of those enrolled. Despite often being called single-payer, United States Medicare is funded by a combination of a payroll tax, beneficiary premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, co-pays and deductibles, and general U.S. Treasury revenue. In addition, per the Medicare Trustees, almost everyone on Medicare adds private or public supplements to so-called Original Medicare, which have additional premiums and co-pays. Instead of being single payer, some people on United States Medicare have as many as six payers including themselves.
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.
Medicare Part D went into effect on January 1, 2006. Anyone with Part A or B is eligible for Part D, which covers mostly self-administered drugs. It was made possible by the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. To receive this benefit, a person with Medicare must enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or public Part C healh plan with integrated prescription drug coverage (MA-PD). These plans are approved and regulated by the Medicare program, but are actually designed and administered by various sponsors including charities, integrated health delivery systems, unions and health insurance companies; almost all these sponsors in turn use pharmacy benefit managers in the same way as they are used by sponsors of health insurance for those not on Medicare. Unlike Original Medicare (Part A and B), Part D coverage is not standardized (though it is highly regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Plans choose which drugs they wish to cover (but must cover at least two drugs in 148 different categories and cover all or "substantially all" drugs in the following protected classes of drugs: anti-cancer; anti-psychotic; anti-convulsant, anti-depressants, immuno-suppressant, and HIV and AIDS drugs). The plans can also specify with CMS approval at what level (or tier) they wish to cover it, and are encouraged to use step therapy. Some drugs are excluded from coverage altogether and Part D plans that cover excluded drugs are not allowed to pass those costs on to Medicare, and plans are required to repay CMS if they are found to have billed Medicare in these cases.
Part A Late Enrollment Penalty If you are not eligible for premium-free Part A, and you don't buy a premium-based Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You must pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A, but didn't sign-up. For example, if you were eligible for Part A for 2 years but didn't sign-up, you must pay the higher premium for 4 years. Usually, you don't have to pay a penalty if you meet certain conditions that allow you to sign up for Part A during a Special Enrollment Period.