Supplementing MedicareAre you having second thoughts about whether you should supplement your Medicare Part A and B benefits with a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan? Medicare Supplement Insurance, which is often called Medigap insurance, basically helps you with Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs.
For example, Part B covers 80 percent of some doctor services, leaving you to pay the 20 percent that’s left. Both Part A and Part B also require you to spend enough on health care to meet a deductible before your coverage actually begins. For Part A, the deductible is over $1,000 and may be required more than once a year.
If you need to stay at the hospital as an inpatient, Medicare covers your hospitalization for 60 days after the deductible has been met. Beginning with the 61st day, you have to make a co-payment. In 2012, the co-pay is $278 per day. From day 91 through day 150, Medicare decreases how much it pays, so you are charged $578 per day. Beyond 150 days, Medicare will only continue to pay for an additional 60 reserve days over the course of your lifetime.
Medigap plans have no annual enrollment period, but seniors can enroll in one when first eligible for Medicare without having to answer any health-related questions. Many states also provide a similar guaranteed-acceptance period for beneficiaries under age 65. Insurance companies are free to enroll beneficiaries all year long, but they are only required to accept an application to cover someone with a health problem during designated open enrollment periods. For seniors, that’s three months before the month of your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, and three months after the month they become 65.
It’s always advisable to compare Medigap plan premiums from different insurance companies. Even though the benefits are standardized, insurers charge different prices for the same coverage. If you try to sign up after your open enrollment and you have a health problem, insurers may view that differently. One could accept your application after a different company has already declined.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.