As the cost of healthcare continues to increase, so do the out-of-pocket costs for services that are not covered by Original Medicare. On average, Medicare only pays approximately 80% of your overall medical costs. In fact, in 2016, the average person with Medicare spent $5,460 in out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare. Moreover, during the same year, 50% of Medicare beneficiaries spent at least 12% of their income on out-of-pocket expenses, and 25% spent at least 23% of their income on such expenses.
Medicare Supplement plans (sometimes referred to as Medigap plans) are designed to pay for many different types of out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as copays and deductibles. Many Medicare Supplement plans also offer coverage for dental care, vision care, and more.
In order to be eligible for a Medicare Supplement plan, you must be eligible for Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B and must not have selected a Medicare Advantage Plan. Every Medicare Supplement plan must follow federal and state laws that are designed to protect you. In fact, all Medicare Supplement plans—no matter which company sells them—are standardized, and must offer the same basic benefits. (Some offer additional benefits.) Insurance companies are not mandated to sell every type of Medicare Supplement plan, but if they do offer them, they must sell Medicare Part A supplement plans as well as Medicare Part C or Plan F supplement plans.
Note, Congress ruled that starting in January 2020, plans C and F (which covers the annual deductible for Medicare Part B) will no longer be available for newly eligible Medicare applicants.
The extra coverage that a Medicare Supplement plan brings is worth the effort, but finding the right plan can be a complex undertaking. There are many variables to consider: the cost of the policy, rate increases, types of discounts, the financial security of the company, and more. We did the research to give you some of the most important information required to help you select the best Medicare Supplement plan for your needs.
The Best Medicare Supplement Insurance Companies of 2021
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts have their own standards for Medigap policies that are different than the federal government's.
Best for Fast Claims Processing : Mutual of Omaha’s United World Life
Why We Chose It: Mutual of Omaha provides affordable coverage, a robust library of information, and quick claims processing.
Offers a wealth of educational information
Handy online tool to help you compare different plans side-by-side
Offers extra discounts (up to 12%) for spouses
Only available in 12 states
The website may be difficult to navigate (particularly for those who are not accustomed to using the internet)
Mutual of Omaha is the parent company for United World Life, which is well known for its fast and efficient claims processing and great customer service. In fact, the company claims that it pays 98% of all Medicare claims within 12 hours. According to Insurance.com, it takes the average insurance company 30 days to process claims. As far as its financial strength, the company has an A+ rating with AM Best.
Mutual of Omaha’s United World Life, founded in 1983, is quickly becoming a leader in the Medigap insurance industry. The company offers a wide range of products, including many Medicare supplement plans.
The website offers educational articles on topics such as Medicare coverage, costs, updates, and recent changes; there’s also online content about the various parts of Medicare (such as Part A vs. Part B and D). The many educational articles include topics like, “Does Medicare Cover Cataract Surgery?”
United World Medicare Supplement Insurance is available in 12 states:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
You can request an agent to contact you for a quote online, or you can see a list of available Mutual of Omaha agents in your state by entering your ZIP code, as well as other personal information online (such as your home address, phone number, and email address).
Best for Frequent Travelers : Manhattan Life
Why We Chose It: Manhattan Life pays 80% of costs incurred during foreign travel, and it is one of the few insurance companies that offers Medicare Supplement policies for people living in Puerto Rico.
Household discount of 7-12% available for those living with a spouse
Dental, hearing, and vision coverage is available
Policyholders can choose their own providers
Offers Plan A, Plan C, Plan F, Plan G, and Plan N
AM Best rating is not as high as many top competitors
Manhattan Life Medicare Supplement was also selected because of its long history in the insurance business; the company has been insuring Americans since 1850, marking perhaps one of the longest track records for a modern-day independent insurance company. With a B+ AM Best rating, it’s also a financially solid company. The dental, hearing, and vision plan is not available in all states, and if you are over 85 you are not eligible for this coverage.
You can fill out an online form to find out if there is coverage in your state and to have an agent from Manhattan Life contact you for a quote.
The company offers a household discount of 7-12% (for living with a spouse, if you have lived together for at least 12 months). This discount may vary from state to state.
Policyholders can also choose their own providers even with additional coverage benefits such as vision and dental.
Best Large Network : Aetna
Why We Chose It: Aetna was selected for its easy-to-navigate online customer portal and stable rate increases, and competitive rates for Medicare supplement plans.
Offers Medicare Supplement plans in 43 states
Employs U.S.-based customer care representatives
Offers a household discount (which varies from state to state)
Plans available include Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan F, Plan G, and Plan N
The website may be difficult to navigate and confusing, due to the various affiliated company names
Need to select state from a drop-down to see if your state is covered
No price estimates listed on site without entering personal information
With an A rating from AM Best, Aetna has offers Medicare Supplement, as well as medical, dental, prescription medicine, long-term care, and disability coverage. The company offers several Medicare Supplement plans, including Parts A, B, C, D, F, G, and N, with each plan’s information and coverage clearly laid out on the company website, and coverage is available even if you move or travel abroad.
Over 39 million customers have chosen Aetna for their healthcare needs (this includes Medicare Supplement policies). The website can be used to view coverage, track any claims, or request an ID card.
You can find a monthly premium plan (depending on your age and the type of policy you purchase) by calling Aetna. A customer service agent will tell you if coverage is available in your state and, if it is, they will provide you with a quote. Aetna also provides price information in multiple formats (PDF, print, and by phone) to better help potential customers understand the details.
The company focuses on being technologically savvy and offering superior customer service. Aetna offers two apps: Aetna Health tracks your account information and is available through the App and Google Play Stores, and Attain by Aetna encourages healthy habits and is available through the App Store.
Best for Preexisting Conditions : Cigna
Why We Chose It: Cigna is known for providing coverage to clients with preexisting conditions that other companies deny.
Insurance coverage is available in all 50 states and 30 countries
24/7 Customer Service
Top rated from AM Best's Ratings “A” (Excellent)
The website may be somewhat difficult to navigate (particularly for those without experience online)
Cigna began in 1792 as the Insurance Company of North America and was the first-ever Marine insurer in the U.S. Today, Cigna, an 'A' (Excellent) rated company by AM Best, offers Medicare Supplement plans, as well as life, accident, and health insurance.
Cigna is well-known for offering policies for people with preexisting conditions when these are not usually waived. In fact, Cigna may be the best choice for those who are applying for a Medicare Supplement plan outside of the Medigap Open Enrollment Period. Many other companies will reject applicants with serious medical conditions unless they are applying for Medicare supplemental insurance within their Medigap Open Enrollment Period. Common preexisting conditions include heart or kidney disease and diabetes, but be sure to ask whether any preexisting condition you may have will be covered.
In addition to coverage for preexisting conditions, Cigna's website offers educational information on Medicare Supplement plans along with a helpful online platform to set up monthly payments, view policies, and request ID cards. Other features include a 7% household discount for others with a Cigna Medicare Supplement policy (varies from state to state) and gym discounts in some states.
Insurance coverage is available in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.
Cigna offers guaranteed renewable coverage for life, once you are accepted.
You can request a quote from Cigna online or call Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m ET.
Most Cost-Effective : Medico
Why We Chose It: Medico offers a number of discounts to reduce the cost of its Medicare Supplemental policies.
Plans offer optional riders in Wisconsin
AM Best rating is an A
Household discount is available
Multiple additional discounts offered
Not a nationwide plan, as coverage is only available in 25 states
Limited number of plans offered
Medico was selected primarily because of the cost-effectiveness of its Medicare Supplement policies (due to its many discounts offered) in combination with its financial rating (an A- rating from AM Best) and stability in offering insurance products since the 1930s. In addition to Medicare Supplement plans (Plans A, F, High-deductible, G, and N), the company offers hospital indemnity coverage, cancer policies, life insurance, dental, and vision.
Additional premium discounts are offered when you pay your premiums via automatic bank payments from your checking or savings account.
In some states, a discount ranging from 7% to 12% is available if you live with another person over 18 years old (even if they don’t have coverage with Medico). A discount for non-tobacco users is also offered.
To find out if your state is covered for Medico Medicare Supplement insurance or get a quote, call or enter your information on the company's website and a representative will call you.
Best for AARP Members : AARP/UnitedHealthcare
Why We Chose It: AARP/UnitedHealthcare offers comprehensive benefits with quick claims processing.
Nationwide coverage (including Washington, D.C. and some U.S. territories)
Plans may be competitively priced depending on your health
Electronic transfer payment discount and same household discounts (varies by state)
Must be an AARP member or live in the same household with an AARP member to qualify
Many plans cost more than many of the company’s competitors
If you're an AARP member or live with someone who is, you might be able to get coverage through AARP/UnitedHealthcare which insures over 4 million people nationwide with Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans A, B, C, F, G, K, L, and N (in most states). Some states also offer Pans G and N, but they may not be available in all areas of the state. AARP reports that claims are processed quickly, with an average turnaround time of 98% processed within 10 business days. Discounts such as multi-insured household members and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) can help make pricing more competitive.
Other features of the plans include a free Renew Active Fitness program that offers a gym membership as well as an online brain health program, plus free access to local health and wellness events, a 24/7 nurse line, pharmacy savings, and vision and hearing discounts
AARP doesn’t charge more as you grow older. This is especially helpful if you are still covered under your employer's insurance and may require coverage after the age of 65. In states where insurers use an attained-age rating (a policy in which rates are based on your age at the time of enrollment), AARP can be competitively priced by offering discounts.
As one of the most trusted names for retirees and other seniors, the organization is insured through UnitedHealthcare, which earns an A rating from AM Best for financial strength.
All Medicare Supplement plans are available to persons eligible for Medicare because of disability in the following states: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
How to Shop and Compare the Best Medicare Supplement Plans
Step 1: Decide if You Want to Purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan
When you sign up for Medicare, or during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, decide what type of coverage you need and which policy is best (policies (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, or N). Take some time to learn more about each type of Medigap plan and exactly what is covered before making your policy selection.
Step 2: See Which Medicare Supplement Plans Are Available in Your State
Compare the difference in cost between the plans (and consider future rate increases) as insurance plan costs differ from state to state. Narrow down the insurance companies you are considering and contact each one for an individualized rate quote to compare prices. Be sure you are comparing the same type of Medicare Supplement plan. For example, compare the price of plan A from one company with other companies’ plan A costs.
Step 3: Consider Talking to a Consultant
Consultants can help ensure that you are selecting the best type of Medigap insurance for your specific financial situation. SHIP is an unbiased resource that can help you to locate a local program consultant in your state.
Step 4: Sign Up
Once you have decided on the type of Medigap plan and the company you want to go with, complete the application (some companies have handy online application forms). The insurance company must give you a very clearly worded summary of your Medigap policy once you are approved. If you don’t understand any part of the policy, be sure to ask.
When Can I Purchase a Medicare Supplement Plan?
You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan once you have enrolled in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. You must also be a citizen of the United States (for at least the past five consecutive years) and be 65 years of age or older. Those diagnosed with some specific physical conditions and those receiving disability benefits are also eligible (even before the age of 65).
If you have a health condition and you apply for Medigap insurance during the Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you are guaranteed to get the same rate for your insurance plan as those who are healthy. When applying outside of your Medigap Open Enrollment Period, you may be subject to restrictions, based on your health history or current medical conditions. You could also be denied when applying outside of the Medigap Open Enrollment Period.
How Do Medicare Supplement Plans Work?
Medicare Supplement Plans are designed to pick up the slack where Medicare payments leave off. Medicare Supplement policies are standardized by the federal (and some state) governments. This means that the benefits of each policy are the same, regardless of which company you select to purchase your policy from. The only real difference is what type of policy each company offers, the prices charged, and how the company determines rate increases. You can keep your own doctor with Medicare Supplement policies.
What Can I Expect to Pay for a Medicare Supplement Plan?
According to eHealth Medicare Insurance, the average Medicare Supplement premium in 2019 was $152 per month.
Note that it is difficult to estimate an average cost for a Medicare plan because there are so many variables that can dramatically impact the cost.
Whether the company offers insurance rates based on age/gender or not, there are several types of policies, including:
- Community-rated: The same premium is charged to anyone who is approved for the Medigap policy, regardless of age or gender.
- Issue-age-related: The premium is based on age when you purchase the policy.
- Attained-age-related: The premium is based on your age at the present time and goes up as you get older.
Other factors that often impact costs include:
- The type of policy purchased (A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, or N)
- Whether you are buying the insurance during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period
- What state you live in
- Your health condition
- The type of discounts offered by the company
- Your age (for some policies)
Do All Doctors Accept Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance?
Although most physicians do accept Medicare payments, there are some that do not. You must ask your health care provider about accepting Medicare assignment; this means that they will be willing to accept the amount Medicare pays for services. There are many reasons a doctor may refuse to take Medicare, including low reimbursement rates, administrative paperwork that must be done, and more.
Can I Choose My Own Healthcare Providers With a Medicare Supplement Plan?
Each Medigap plan allows you to keep your doctors and hospitals (provided they accept Medicare payments). You can see any Medicare contracted physician and visit any contracted facility.
The plans that offer health care coverage for foreign travel emergencies (when traveling outside of the U.S.) include Medigap plans C, D, F, G, M, and N.
How Do I Know for Sure Which Plan Is Best for Me?
It’s impossible to say which plan is the best for each person. There are several factors to consider, including whether or not you will be able to buy a plan from a specific insurance company based on your personal situation (such as your age, the state you live in, your health, and more). Also, keep in mind that every state has its own regulations for the type of coverage that insurance companies must offer and how they approve or deny each applicant.
How We Selected the Best Medicare Supplement Plan Companies
The Medicare Supplement plan companies were selected, first and foremost, because they are able to show financial stability from information on their website, combined with third-party ratings such as those from AM Best—a reliable third party that provides credit ratings and financial data for the insurance industry. We looked at several lists of top 10 insurance agencies, covering several dozen companies. Once the company’s financial stability was determined, we looked for those that offer unique products and services, as well as companies known to provide features such as low costs, fast claims, multiple discounts, and more.