Medicare Supplement Company Recommendations

We evaluated 10 well-known Medicare supplement insurance plans, and after careful review identified the 3 best options in 2017. To draw our conclusions, we checked with customers in the market, reviewed data and consulted insurance experts. In summary, no one plan is best for all situations, but we found three plans that deserve special recognition: AARP by UnitedHealthcare (The Benchmark for Price), Mutual of Omaha (Most Helpful), and Cigna (Best Coverage).

How much do you know about Medicare supplement insurance? Contrary to common belief, Medicare, the government-funded healthcare insurance for American citizens age 65 and up, doesn’t cover 100% of your medical costs. Medicare supplement insurance plans add additional coverage to fill the gap in coverage between Medicare and your actual medical expenses. Private companies sell these so-called “Medigap” policies, which are typically used to cover expenses like deductibles and co-pays.

Coverage can be difficult to understand, and varies by market. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin provide their own policies for residents. The remaining 47 states in the U.S. rely on 11 standard plans that accommodate all types of health, lifestyle, and budget demands. These plans vary based coinsurance needs such as hospital stay, hospice care, travel expectations and more.

In this guide, we’ll provide tips for making a well-informed Medigap insurance purchase, investigate the best companies in the industry, and address some frequently asked questions.

Top tips:

  • Insist on price transparency
  • Open enrollment starts automatically when you are 65 or older and enroll in Medicare Part B

Recommended companies:

Research Stats:

Medigap Companies
Considered
10
Medigap Companies
Selected
3
Total Hours of
Analysis
40
Experts
Consulted
3
Seniors
Consulted
20


Tips For A Wise Buyer


Be sure to sign up for Medicare supplement insurance within the 6-month window after you turn 65 (or elder) AND enroll in Medicare Part B. When asked what the number one biggest mistake Americans make is regarding Medicare supplemental insurance, a spokesman with the U.S. Social Security Administration told us “Everyone thinks they have enough coverage when they’re 65 if they’re working or if they have insurance through their spouse. They don’t think they have to sign up. Then later they find out they have missed their open enrollment period.”

During the open enrollment timeframe, federal law bans insurers from denying you coverage or charging higher premiums if you have a pre-existing health condition or disability. If you try to sign up after that window, you will likely pay more for premiums and may even be denied.

Lesson
Start planning as soon you turn 65

Understanding the fine print in a supplemental policy makes a big difference. Research will help you avoid situations like being charged extra out-of-pocket or out-of-network fees. Ultimately, coverage options for supplement insurance varies by plan type and provider, so it’s difficult to know what factors are most important.

Consider these three major factors to find the best supplemental insurance policy: price transparency, helpfulness, and coverage.

Price transparency

There are going to be a number of expenses, charges, and premiums to decode. Set your budget first, then look for a company that is upfront about premiums before you sign on the line.

Helpfulness

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.

Coverage

The more coverage choices available, the more opportunities you have to save and get the best care. Look for companies that offer several or all of the 11 standard plans, then pick what works best for you.**

Benefits by Plan Type

** Check Medicare.gov for exceptions and additional limitations



medigap discussion

Senior man discussing healthcare options with a doctor. Source: Getty Images

Searching for the right policy can be difficult, so we did it for you. The approach we took to hone in on the top supplemental insurance companies was as follows:

1. We considered a large number of supplemental insurance companies

We kicked off our search with 10 Medicare supplement insurance companies that offer a multitude of plans. We included companies that appeared in popular website queries, and those that spent a large amount of money advertising on TV or the radio. These are the companies most likely to be shopped by consumers.

2. We followed our own buying tips

Next, we analyzed these companies based on our expert-guided buyer criteria in three categories: price transparency, helpfulness, and coverage. Companies that obscured their prices, made the process very difficult, or had limited coverage options were cut from the search.

3. We shopped for policies

We contacted companies and asked for more information. We found out that policies ranged in price from less than $100/month for basic coverage to thousands for maximum protection.

Then, we shared these best companies for you, a friend or family member to consider.


Medicare Supplement Plan Reviews

After our evaluation, we selected three best Medicare supplemental insurance providers: AARP by UnitedHealthcare, Mutual of Omaha, and Cigna. Each of these companies were good picks, and also stood out in a unique way.

AARP UHC logo

  • Benchmark Price
  • Quick online quotes

Mutual of Omaha logo

  • Most Helpful
  • Useful planning & advice

Cigna logo

  • Best Coverage
  • Additional policy options


AARP by UnitedHealthcare Review

Benchmark Price

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers AARP Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans via UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group and is America’s biggest health insurer, boasting over 130 million members.

Price transparency: AARP earned the top spot as the number one most transparent company since the site generates actual sample rates – without requiring you to fill out personal details in an online form or call a representative. To view rates, type in your ZIP code in the “Find Plans In Your Area” toolbar, then a list generates of all of the available plans and prices based on your age and the plan you want to select. If you decide you want a more detailed quote, then you can call a customer service representative or fill out an online information form requesting to be contacted.

AARP website
Screenshot: AARP by UHC website

Helpfulness: The company takes as much guesswork as possible out of your quest for supplemental insurance. For example, you can answer a couple health questions in an online quiz that’ll match you with potential plans that may work for you. Company representatives are also available by phone seven days a week. The AARP website has a search tool to find plans in your ZIP code and a link to schedule in-person info meetings in your area if you’d rather have a face-to-face meeting.

Coverage: Now depending on your state, the site offers at least 10 different plans for you to pick. And as we mentioned, the greater the number of plans the greater options you have to get the healthcare you want at a price you can manage.

Mutual of Omaha Review

Most Helpful

The Omaha, Nebraska Fortune 500 health insurance and financial services firm offers a wide range of insurance products, from health to auto coverage. Mutual of Omaha has received stellar ratings, including an A+ (Superior) from A.M. Best Company, Inc. for overall financial strength and its “ability to meet ongoing obligations to policyholders.”

Price transparency: You won’t find any quotes online. You can, however, start the price conversation by completing a quick online form on the site and a representative will contact you to go over possible plans.

Mutual of Omaha website
Screenshot: Mutual of Omaha

Helpfulness: You can search the site for the closest available agent for a face-to-face talk, or fill out a quick online form stating specific times you’re available for a customer service representative to call you – as well as include any notes to explain your needs. The site also features an education section titled “Planning and Advice” which is essentially a Medicare 101 info center to turn you into a Medicare pro. The section includes helpful articles touching on topics including your enrollment period and eligibility rules. That way you can read up on an arsenal of info before you reach out to a representative so you have a better handle on what to ask and what you’re looking for.

Coverage: A search of coverage options by state shows lots of options for consumers to look into, along with links to nearby agents’ offices for you to visit in-person or call with questions for local support.

Cigna Review

Best Coverage

Cigna is a global health services Fortune 500 company with over 95 million “customer relationships” worldwide. The health giant maintains headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and offers a myriad of insurance products from life to dental.

Price transparency: To get a quote you can either call a customer service representative or complete an online form with your contact and health details. Upon sending it off, a customer service representative will contact you with suggested plans.

Cigna website
Screenshot: Cigna website

Helpfulness: There are two paths to getting coverage. First, customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from morning through evening hours. Or, you can complete an online form and then a customer service representative will contact you. That way you’re not waiting on hold indefinitely and instead, you’re contacted at a time that works for you.

Coverage: Coverage-wise, Cigna is king because the site includes an option for you to compare coverage plans at a glance. That gives you a clear breakdown of what’s covered and what isn’t. Also, the site offers a litany of other supplement options including lump sum heart attack and stroke coverage, which is ideal if you’re interested in additional policy protections.


Frequently Asked Questions


Do I have to purchase Medicare supplement insurance?
No. but can you afford not to? 9 out of 10 people have a type of supplemental coverage, according to the AARP.

If you forgo supplemental insurance, then you’re responsible for out-of-pocket health insurance costs – that can quickly cost thousands of dollars. If you’re on a fixed income, this may quickly eat into your retirement savings. Unless you can guarantee that you won’t have more than a sniffle for the rest of your life, coverage is probably a good financial move.

When should I buy Medicare Supplement Insurance?
Put this on your calendar – the Medigap open enrollment period. That’s a six-month window which kicks off the first month you’re 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B. If you sign up for Medicare supplemental insurance during this period, you can join any plan (even if you have a pre-existing condition).

You can still buy Medicare supplemental insurance after this window but you will pay a price – literally. After this enrollment period, insurers may increase premiums or deny coverage.

What if I’m 65 or older and still using my employer coverage?
If you are one of millions of Americans working after 65, your employer health insurance coverage may be all you need for now. Medicare supplement open enrollment generally won’t begin for you until you enroll in Medicare Part B. If you haven’t enrolled in Part B yet, you should consider waiting to enroll until you are ready for your Medicare supplement open enrollment to begin. There are some notable exceptions for Part B and employer coverage.

How much does Medicare supplemental insurance cost?
We found policies that ranged in price from less than $100/month for basic coverage to thousands for maximum protection. There’s no “normal” number, as there are so many factors in play like where you live, your age and needs. A ballpark figure is a couple hundred dollars a month for standard coverage. However, it’s basic economics – the more supplemental insurance you want, the greater the cost.

Can I get a discount?
Yes. Some plans offer discounts if you’re married (studies show that married couples tend to be healthier – as they encourage each other to eat nutritious meals, exercise, and see a doctor). You can also possibly cut your rate if you’re a non-smoker, as you’ll likely have fewer health risks. Or you may be able to save by paying annually or via electronic funds transfer. Even if the website or brochure you’re studying doesn’t mention anything about discounts – ask.

Are all 11 Medicare supplemental insurance plans the same in every state?
While there are 11 different plans in most of the U.S., federal law mandates that each plan carry the same coverage. For example, Plan K in New York offers identical benefits to Plan K in New Mexico.

Where else can I turn for more information?
Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Enter your state, and the contact phone number and website of the local office will appear.

Another website site to check out: The U.S. government-run Medicare site. In addition to being the final resource on Medicare and Medigap insurance, the site has a ZIP-based search to find a Medigap policy in your area.


Conclusion


Bottom line: Medicare supplement insurance coverage is one of the most important health and financial decisions you make for retirement.

If you decide to buy Medicare supplemental insurance, talk with a representative and walk through every cost – and get a list of the cost and benefits in writing. Good companies will offer you this price transparency, and this way you’re not surprised with a large bill or with coverage you don’t need.

Buying a policy can be complicated, so get help and find a helpful policy provider. There are many coverage choices available, and the right plan may help you significantly reduce unwanted medical costs. Before you sign up, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member review your policy. If that’s not an option, we found the following companies were the best and therefore should be a good choice.