A Medicare Supplement Plan, also called a Medigap plan, is a plan sold by private companies, separate from Medicare. Medicare Supplement plans pay for the costs, or “gaps,” in coverage that are not paid for by Original Medicare. These can include prescriptions, doctor visits, vision and dental care, and more. Almost 60 million Americans were enrolled in Original Medicare and Medicare Supplement plans in 2018.
- As of Jan. 1, 2020, Medicare Supplement plans sold to new Medicare recipients aren't allowed to cover the Part B deductible. Because of this, Plans C and F are not available to people new to Medicare starting on Jan. 1, 2020.
- Medicare Supplement plans don't cover the costs of prescription drugs—for that, you need to get a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D).
As the cost of healthcare continues to increase, so do the out-of-pocket costs for services that are not covered by Original Medicare. Because it can be difficult to predict your exact health care needs and costs, Medicare Supplement plans are used to cover many of the services you may need. There are currently 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans approved by the federal government.
Now that we've covered the basics on how to shop around for Medicare Supplement plans, we rounded up the best companies for you to consider when signing up for a plan. We took into account pricing, website interface, customer service touchpoints available, discounts, and more.
Best Medicare Supplement Insurance Companies of 2021
Best Overall: Mutual of Omaha
Smooth, clean website with easy-to-follow information
Comparison charts for different plans, with a brief overview
Customer reviews right there on the plan information page
Only offers three plans
Multi-step process to pay online, with credit cards or bank account information
No app for Medicare Supplement insurance
In business since 1909, Mutual of Omaha offers high quality, in-depth information through the company website. The website is simple, uncluttered, and includes a comparison checklist showing who each plan is best for, with the option to include further coverage (such as dental or prescription drug coverage). Mutual of Omaha also offers a 7% discount if your spouse or domestic partner has applied for, or is applying for, coverage with Mutual of Omaha or an affiliate company.
However, the company only offers three plans (F, G, and N). To get price estimates, you need to include information on your gender, date of birth, and ZIP code. You can contact them online or over the phone for a personalized quote, but the company does not offer a mobile app for its Medigap customers. Mutual of Omaha is ranked by AM Best at A+ for financial health.
Best User Experience: Humana
User-friendly website lists average prices by ZIP code
Easy-to-find information and contact numbers
Enough introductory information without being overwhelming
Some of the deductibles run higher than other plans
Lack of detailed educational information about each plan's coverage
Not available in all 50 states
Humana's website offers easy-to-use, self-explanatory content that makes the process of finding the best Medicare Supplement policy simple and straightforward. Each plan’s coverage details are clearly displayed by ZIP code, without needing to enter your personal information into the site. You can also request an in-person appointment with a Humana Medicare agent.
You can compare specific plans if you enter your personal data, and Humana also provides a PDF with detailed plan information by state. Deductibles for some Humana plans are a little higher than other carriers. Humana covers every state (except Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) with the same basic plans, including Parts A, B, C, F, G, K, L, and N. Plan F has an additional high-deductible option.
Humana earns an A- with AM Best for financial health. The MyHumana app is available from both Google Play and Apple's App Store.
Humana is waiving out-of-pocket costs for in-network primary care, outpatient behavioral health, and telehealth visits effective May 1 through the end of 2020.
Best Set Pricing: AARP
Interactive, user-friendly website
Easy access to further contact in-person, online, or by phone
Geared toward people with prior knowledge of Medicare
Must join AARP to enroll
Need birthday and current Medicare information for price details
No link to Medicare Supplement coverage from the main website
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people who are ages 50-plus with a variety of services and information. One of the most trusted names for retirees and other seniors, the organization boasts 38 million members and is insured through UnitedHealthcare, which earns an A rating from AM Best for financial strength.
We chose AARP as best for its set pricing for Medicare Supplement coverage because it 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.
AARP covers Parts A, B, C, F, G, K, L, and N, though it’s important to note that plans C and F are only available if you were enrolled in Medicare before January 2020. You can get pricing information easily by entering your ZIP code, and there's a Spanish language website as well.
In-person appointments are available, but you'll need to check that the offices in your location are open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Best Medigap Coverage Information: Aetna
Information presented in multiple formats
Phone numbers for members and non-members clearly listed on every page
Coverage available if you move within the United States or travel abroad
Complicated coverage "transcript" is separate from comparison chart
No price estimates listed on site without entering personal information
Specific state-based coverage document available for download is long and difficult to understand
Aetna stands out because it 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. Consumers are supplied with ample details to really understand the options before making a decision. Aetna also provides price information in multiple formats (PDF, print, and by phone) to better help a potential customer understand the details. However, the downloadable document with all the coverage details can be difficult to get through without guidance. Overall, we found Aetna to be very helpful and informative throughout the entire process of deciding upon a Medigap plan.
Aetna, now owned by CVS Health Corporation, has been in business since 1853 and earns an A with AM Best for financial strength. You can contact the company online, over the phone, or in person, assuming the offices are open in your area. Aetna offers two apps through Google Play and the App Store: Aetna Health tracks your account information, and Attain by Aetna encourages healthy habits.
Best Discounts for Multiple Policyholders: Cigna
Big focus on education and easy-to-understand information
24/7 health Information line staffed by trained nurses
Household discounts for multiple policies with Cigna
Fewer plan options than some other companies
No pricing listed on the site without providing personal information
Cigna offers the best premium discounts for healthy policyholders as well as households with multiple policies through Cigna, including a 7% household discount (available in some states) and a 5% discount for online sign-up that remains in effect for the life of the policy (available to first-time policyholders in some states). While Cigna offers fewer plans than some of its competitors (Plans A, F, a high-deductible F, G and N) its easy-to-use website has information clearly separated into categories, with an itemized breakdown of each plan when you click on "details" in the plan comparison chart. This allows for easy comparisons while avoiding presenting too much information at once. Cigna also offers a short educational video to explain "the basics of Medicare Supplement insurance."
Cigna has been in business since 1792, making it one of the oldest companies we reviewed, and the company's financial strength is currently an A according to AM Best. If you’re willing to answer some detailed health history questions, you can see personalized quotes on the website, or you can contact them by phone.
For those who are digitally inclined, Cigna offers three different apps through Google Play and the App store. The Cigna Envoy app helps customers access health benefits and resources specifically, while myCigna stores all your Cigna details, from your ID card information and account balances to cost comparisons for drugs and medical procedures. The Cigna Wellbeing app helps encourage healthy behaviors.
How to Shop & Compare Medicare Supplement Plans
Researching the plan that’s right for you is key to getting the coverage you need. Each plan offers specific benefits depending on your state, which benefits you desire, and the costs.
Step 1: Determine if You Are Eligible to Enroll
Step 2: Find a List of Medicare Supplement Plans Available in Your State or ZIP Code
Using the tool available on Medicare’s website, you can search for coverage plans based on your location.
If you live in Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, Medicare Supplement policies have different rules. You have guaranteed issue rights to buy a Medicare Supplement policy, but the policies are different.
Step 3: Determine Which Aspects of Coverage Are Most Important to You
Perhaps you are concerned about out-of-pocket copays or high deductibles or you have a preexisting condition and want to know if there is a waiting period for coverage for it. Be sure to check each plan for the details that matter most to you.
No matter which insurance company offers a particular Medicare Supplement plan, all plans with the same letter cover the same basic benefits. For instance, all Plan C policies have the same basic benefits no matter which company sells the plan. However, the premiums can vary, and each policy may have additional benefits that vary according to the provider.
Step 4: Compare the Difference in Cost Among Medicare Supplement Plans
The cost of a Medicare Supplement plan is determined by the individual insurance company that sells it. When researching different companies, be sure to ask how they price their policies. Learning which factors they base their pricing on will help you determine both the costs for you today and what to expect in the future if your health situation changes.
Step 5: Consider Talking to a Broker or Consultant
Choosing any type of health insurance can be overwhelming. If you’d like some unbiased help in choosing which plan is right for you, a good option is State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. Also known as SHIP, they provide free local health coverage counseling to people with Medicare.
Step 6: Sign Up
Once you’ve found a plan that works for you, contact that insurance company directly to enroll.
The best time to buy a Medicare Supplement policy is during your Initial Medicare Open Enrollment Period. This is a one-time only, six-month span when federal law allows you to sign up for any Medicare Supplement policy you want that is sold in your state. Preexisting conditions are accepted during this time period, and you can't be denied a Medicare Supplement policy or charged more due to past or present health problems. Make sure you know when your Open Enrollment Period starts.
Other special enrollment periods exist if you are still enrolled in your employer’s benefits program or if you have a guaranteed issue right. The Medicare.gov site has more information on when you are eligible to sign up.
What Are the Benefits of Buying a Medicare Supplement Plan?
The benefit of a Medicare Supplement plan is that it pays for the costs that are not paid for by Original Medicare. These include coverage for prescription medications, hospital stays, hospice care, bloodwork, and emergency room visits. It can drastically limit the out-of-pocket expenses that you may be hit with.
What Is the Difference Between a Medicare Supplement Plan and Medicare Advantage?
Both Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans are supplements to Original Medicare, but they are different. Medicare Advantage is an alternative Medicare plan. Medicare Advantage has a low or $0 monthly charge and covers most prescription medicine, though the choice of doctors and networks may be limited.
A Medicare Supplement plan cannot be used to cover costs from an Advantage plan; in fact, it’s illegal for anyone to try to sell you a Medicare Supplement policy while you're enrolled in an Advantage plan unless you're switching back to Original Medicare. If you’re unhappy with your Advantage plan and switch back to a Medicare Original Plan (which you can do within 12 months of enrolling in the Medicare Advantage plan), you then become eligible for Medicare Supplement insurance.
When Can I Buy a Medicare Supplement Plan?
When it comes to Medicare eligibility, you can buy a Medicare Supplement policy beginning on the first day of the month you turn 65, and for the following six months. Depending on the plan and state, however, people who are under 65 may qualify if they are permanently disabled. You may be subject to a medical underwriting examination, which is a detailed review of your medical history.
What Does a Medicare Supplement Plan Typically Cost?
Without providing detailed personal information, most providers are unable to release estimated costs. However, most plans begin in the range of $100 per month, and many providers offer discounts for a variety of qualifiers (such as being female or a non-smoker, or if you have more than one policy from that provider).
Does a Medicare Supplement Plan Pay for COVID-19 Tests or Treatment?
As a result of The Families FIrst Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Original Medicare will pay for you to get a test for COVID-19, with no out-of-pocket cost -- you do not need to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan, and no referral is required. If you are hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19, Medicare will cover the inpatient costs, minus the Medicare Part A deductible of $1,484 in 2021 (compared with $1,408 in 2020). In addition, the CARES Act requires insurers to offer up to a 90-day supply of prescriptions for Medicare Part D enrollees.
What Do Medicare Supplement Plans Not Cover?
Most Medicare Supplement plans have limits and exclusions to what they cover. For example, Plans C, D, F, G, and N cover 80% of medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S., but each of those four plans has other areas that they don’t cover. Medicare.gov offers a detailed explanation of benefits for each plan.
Most common things not covered by Medicare Supplement plans:
- Part B Deductible (Out-patient & Home Health Services)
- Part B Excess Charge (the difference between what doctor charges and what Medicare covers)
- Foreign Travel Exchange
- Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance
Is a Medicare Supplement Plan Worth It?
Yes. A Medicare Supplement plan can help cover what Medicare can’t—from prescription medicine to ER visits to extended stays in the hospital. Some even cover nursing care or facility stays. Depending on the plan you choose, you may have copays, for example, or extremely limited doctor visits. Even getting one ER visit covered can be a huge benefit financially.
Who Needs a Medicare Supplement Plan?
If you currently have or are looking into Original Medicare coverage, you might want to check if you need a Medicare Supplement plan. It is important to know that there will be out-of-pocket expenses associated with Original Medicare. If you cannot afford those costs, enrolling in a Medicare Supplement plan will be most beneficial to you.
Not sure if it’s in your best interest or budget? Medicare.gov offers online tools to determine your eligibility and what plans are available in your location.
How We Chose the Best Medicare Supplement Plan Insurance Companies
For this review, we examined companies with availability in 40 or more states, to ensure that the most people possible would be able to take advantage of the information provided. However, there may be regional and state-specific plans that might be better depending on where you live. We compiled information from each of the companies’ websites as any new applicant might. We also compared the companies' financial health, according to the ratings by AM Best.
We used the same criteria for each company when comparing:
- Website interface, navigation, and usability
- Ease with comparing plans
- Ease with getting a quote online
- Price transparency
- Availability of educational content on company website
- Availability of local, in-person agents for questions
Kaiser Family Foundation. “Sources of Supplemental Coverage Among Medicare Beneficiaries in 2016.” Accessed December 12, 2020.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Medicare and You Handbook 2021." Accessed December 12, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed December 14, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Humana Inc. and Majority of Its Health Subsidiaries; Maintains Positive Outlooks." Accessed December 14, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Revises Outlooks to Positive for UnitedHealth Group Incorporated and Its UnitedHealthcare Subsidiaries." Accessed December 14, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Switching Medigap policies." Accessed December 13, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of CVS Health Corporation’s Aetna Subsidiaries." Accessed December 14, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Assigns Credit Ratings to CIGNA Global Insurance Company Limited." Accessed December 14, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Medigap in Massachusetts." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Medigap in Minnesota." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Medigap in Wisconsin." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Costs of Medigap policies." Accessed December 13, 2020.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs. "Local Medicare Help." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Medicare Enrollment Periods: When to Sign Up." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "When Can I Buy Medigap?" Accessed December 13, 2020.
HealthLaw.org. "Ensuring People Have Access to Prescription Drugs During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "How to compare Medigap plans." Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. “How to compare Medigap policies.” Accessed December 13, 2020.
Medicare.gov. "Find a Medigap plan in your location." Accessed December 13, 2020.