As we approach the annual Medicare open enrollment period, it is a good time to review the difference between the “parts” of Medicare and the Medicare supplement “plans”. Because both use letters to differentiate themselves, this can be a frequent and frustrating source of confusion for Medicare beneficiaries. What it causes is people to say one thing and mean another, which can lead to getting the wrong or invalid information.
First of all, the “parts” of Medicare are letters ‘A’ through ‘D’. These are offered through the Federal Government’s Medicare program. “Original” Medicare is Parts A & B, and you get these when you turn 65 (or are on disability for 24 months). That is, unless you opt out of Medicare because you are still working, have other coverage, etc. Medicare Part C is Medicare Advantage plans. These plans take the place of Medicare A & B, and all of your benefits are provided through the private company. In essence, it’s a private version of Medicare. Medicare Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription drugs. These plans are sold through private insurance companies as well, just like Part D. They are approved by and administered by Medicare (CMS).
Now, the “plans” that are associated with Medicare are the Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, plans. These plans range from ‘A’ to ‘N’, and they are all named by letters. In other words, Part D is different from Plan D. The two should not, and cannot, be confused. Medigap plans are Federally-standardized. That is, a Plan F, for example, (which is the most common plan) is the same with one company as it is with another. There are literally no differences in coverage, where you can use the plan, how they pay claims, etc. All Medigap plans are standardized.
Medicare PART D (and Medicare Advantage) have this upcoming annual enrollment period. It begins on October 15, 2011 this year. Medigap PLANS, however, do NOT have an annual enrollment period. You can enroll, disenroll or change Medigap plans at any time. This is another thing that leads to the confusion between “parts” and “plans”.
Overall, it is important to understand the difference between the two, so that you can sign up for the right thing at the right time. If you want more information about the differences in the two or the differences in the various Medigap plan options for your area, please contact us at Medicare-Supplement.US or at 877.506.3378.