Medigap or Medicare Supplement: A Call for More Precise Terminology

There are many examples of when something, because it is not worded correctly, means something different than what was intended. As a former aspiring journalist, I have an interest in, maybe even a passion for, making sure words are clear. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, as the saying goes.

In the Medicare insurance field, we have our very own example of confusing terminology. As if Medicare and Medicare insurance is not confusing enough, we have allowed the term “Medicare Supplement” to mean many things, all of which are actually different. To clarify, when someone says “Medicare Supplement”, it is not clear what they are talking about because of the overuse and misuse of that term.

Some people use that term to refer to an employer plan for retired workers. In many cases, the insurance plan is actually primary to Medicare. So, it is Medicare that is actually the “supplement” in those cases.

In still other cases, people refer to Medicare Advantage plans as Medicare Supplements, when in reality, these plans do not supplement Medicare at all. On the contrary, they take the place of Medicare and Medicare does not pay claims at all if you have a Medicare Advantage plan.

The last type of plan that is sometimes called a Medicare supplement actually does supplement Medicare. The words actually ring true to what the plan does. However, because of all the confusion around the terminology, I think it makes the most sense to call Medigap plans exactly what they are – Medigap plans – not Medicare Supplements. Medigap plans are the standardized plans, sold through private companies, that fill in the gaps in Medicare. They do, in all cases, act as a supplement to Medicare.

So, for the sake of clarity and for the purpose of reducing further confusion among those on Medicare, I propose using the terminology Medigap exclusively for this type of plan instead of calling them Medicare Supplements. Now, if I could just change the name of my website…

Garrett Ball is the owner of Medicare-Supplement.US, a leading, independent Medigap agency. You can get more information about Medigap plans online at Medicare-Supplement.US or by calling 877.506.3378.

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