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June 2, 2016

The B Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan

The B Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan

You can’t make a good Medicare supplement insurance choice if you do not know the plans the first place to start before even looking at the rates and carriers is to have a good foundational understanding of how the plans differ and in that light, let’s take apart the B Medicare supplement plan. Although it’s incredibly popular as an option, it’s important to understand why not.

First of all, do not confuse the B Medicare supplement plan with Part B. This is always confusing (understandably so) for many people when researching options for Medicare. When we are on the phone helping people go through the options, it quickly devolves into a “Who’s on 1st” routine until we delineate that Part B is the part of traditional Medicare that deals with physicians costs while Plan B, is one of the standardized Medicare supplement plans available to complement traditional Medicare. Once we have correctly separated, we can get into the benefits so on to Plan B.

Plan B is the second plan (A being the first) up in terms of benefits meaning that only the A plan is less rich in benefits if we’re not considering the high deductible F plan or Advantage plans. Not too many carriers will offer the B plan but just in case, let’s go through the benefits.

First, there are the benefits relating to Part A. Part A is the hospital side of traditional Medicare. By hospital, we generally mean facility based care. The B Medicare supplement plan address both “holes” in Part A coverage. The B plan will cover both the Part A deductible and the Part A co-insurance (covered by all Medicare supplement plans). The Part A deductible is the only difference between the B plan and A plan (A plan does not cover this deductible). The deductible is sizable (over $1000 per calendar year and growing) so the reason to get the B plan is this one time and if it’s priced fairly closely to the A plan, we advise the B plan between those two options if cost is your primary concern.

The next section to look at would be Part B benefits under traditional Medicare. These are the charges associated with physician charges and labs. The B plan will not cover either the Part B deductible or the Part B co-insurance. This means that you will pay the Part B deductible (over $100 and growing) and afterwards, the 20% that Medicare does not pick up. This is less of a concern than the Part A deductible/co-insurance since we’re dealing with much smaller amounts but you’re also more likely to hit the Part B deductible since more common-place benefits such as office visits fall under this category. You’re pretty likely to hit (and meet) this deductible and the co-insurance of 20% so figure what the deductible amount is over a 12-month period to compare apples and apples against other plans.

The rest of the Plan B Medicare supplement benefits are identical to the A plan for the remaining categories. Let’s look through them according to importance (in our humble opinion). The first is Excess charges which is not covered by the B (or A or C) plan. Excess is the amount that Medicare providers can charge over what Medicare allows. We feel this is an important consideration and potential risk since the Excess charge is not capped and can run as high as 15% of the total eligible charges. Hospice care is covered by the F plan but Skilled Nursing Facility is not. The latter is also a potential concern since this type of care is extremely expensive and only getting more expensive as can be seen by the current Long Term Care funding issue. As competition for skilled nursing become ever more in demand as a result of the Baby Boomers, the cost can be expected to increase as far as the eye can see.

The first 3 pints of blood are covered but the Foreign travel emergency benefit is not covered. We’re not terribly concerned about his latter benefit since travel medical insurance can generally be purchased as needed and the cost to cover Foreign travel generally offsets any potential benefit. Preventative benefits are covered under the B Medicare supplement plan, which is good news.

Those are the core B plan benefits along the major categories outlined in Traditional Medicare coverage. The B plan is rarely offered so this is probably not going to figure into your decision but just in case it is; we want to make sure you have all the relevant information to make a good decision.

An article by Dennis Jarvis
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