Nearly 50 million people are enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Over 11 million of those people have additional coverage through a Medigap plan. Beneficiaries who want a Medigap plan often find themselves feeling indecisive over whether to choose Medicare Plan F vs Plan G vs Plan N. These are three of the top Medicare supplement plans for 2019.
If you’re concerned about out-of-pocket health care costs, enrolling in any Medigap is a smart decision. The average 66-year-old couple spends about 57% of their Social Security benefits on health care, according to a 2016 study.
Which is the Best Plan: F vs G vs N?
The most comprehensive plan currently available if Medigap Plan F. It covers all of the gaps in Medicare. The next most comprehensive plan if Plan G, which covers nearly as much, with the Part B deductible being the only difference. Finally, Plan N is probably the third most popular plan because it operates similar to Plan G except that you pay copays for doctor and E.R. visits and you also pay your own excess charges.
Let’s first look at how Medigap plans are standardized and then we’ll discuss the features and benefits of each specific plan: F vs G vs N.
Medigap Plans are Standardized
There are currently 10 different Medigap plans that are standard across most states. (Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have their own plan standards.) What this means for consumers, however, is that Plan A offered by Company X in Anaheim is exactly the same as Plan A offered by Company Y in Boise. While premiums may differ, benefits and coverage are the same.
Medigap is offered by private insurance companies. These companies do not have to offer all 10 plans. However, any company that offers Medigap coverage must offer Plan A. Also, if it wishes to offer more than one plan, it must also offer either Medigap Plan C or Plan F in addition to any other plans it offers.
Ever wondered which Medigap plan is the most popular? It’s Plan F by a landslide—about 55% of all Medigap plans currently in force are Plan F. Plan C is a distant second at about 9%, according to the most recent Medigap enrollment data.
If you’re looking for the plan with the highest enrollment growth, however, Plan N and Plan G are skyrocketing in popularity, up 33% and 25% respectively over last year’s numbers.
Here’s what you need to know about what these plans cover so you can choose right one for you.
What’s Covered on Medigap Plan F?
Medigap Plan F is a heavy favorite with individuals who want comprehensive benefits and first-dollar coverage on their health care costs. First-dollar coverage means that both your Part A and Part B deductibles are covered by the plan, so you pay nothing before your Medicare benefits kick in. This kind of broad protection makes sense if you’ve got serious or chronic health conditions and have a lot of medical expenses each year.
Of course, you’ll pay more in premiums, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons before you make your decision.
Here’s what’s covered under Medigap Plan F:
- Part A deductible and Part B deductible
- Part A and Part B coinsurance and/or copayment amounts
- Hospital coinsurance for a full year (365 days) after Original Medicare Part A benefits are used up
- Part B excess charges
- Hospice care coinsurance
- Skilled nursing care coinsurance
- Blood: First 3 pints per year (for approved procedures)
- Foreign travel emergency care at 80% (up to plan limits)
Keep in mind that premiums for Plan F tend to be the highest among the Medigap plans, but if you’re looking for lower premiums and broad coverage, there is a high-deductible option for Plan F. Under the high-deductible plan, you’ll pay the first $2,200 of your expenses out-of-pocket before your plan pays.
There’s another thing you should know about Plan F. It’s being phased out in 2020. It won’t be offered as a new policy after that time. However, if you’re already enrolled in a Plan F, you’ll be allowed to keep it. It will be grandfathered in.
What’s Covered under Medigap Plan G?
Medigap Plan G is currently outselling most other Medigap plans because it offers the same broad coverage as Plan F except for the Part B deductible, which is $183 in 2017.
The only difference when you compare Medicare supplements Plan F and Plan G is that deductible. Otherwise they function just the same.
There is one important feature that Medicare supplements Plan F and G have over all the other Medigap plans. These two popular plans are the only Medicare Supplement Plans that offer coverage for Part B excess charges—and that’s important if you want maximum flexibility to choose your health care provider.
When you see a provider that doesn’t participate with Medicare, he can charge up to 15% more than the standard Medicare rate for your services. You will pay this money out of pocket unless you have Medigap Plan F or Plan G. It’s definitely something to consider if provider choice is important to you.
There are no plans to phase out Plan G in 2020, which is another good point to keep in mind.
What’s Covered under Medigap Plan N?
This is another fast-selling plan because it offers a good balance between protection against catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses and affordable premiums.
Under Medigap Plan N, you have all the same coverage as Plan F except:
- No coverage for Part B deductible
- No coverage for Part B excess charges
- You may have a copay of up to $20 for doctor visits and $50 for hospital visits that don’t result in admission.
This is one of the newer plans, rolled out in 2010. It’s a good fit for individuals who don’t mind a little cost-sharing in exchange for lower premiums. It’s also not going anywhere in 2020, unlike Plan F.
Is Medicare Plan G better than Plan F?
Medicare Plan G is not better than Plan F because Medicare Plan G covers one less benefit than Plan F. It leaves you to pay the Part B deductible whereas Medigap Plan F cover that deductible.
Is Medicare Plan F being discontinued?
Yes, but only for new enrollees on or after January 1, 2020. Any Medicare beneficiary who is eligible for Medicare prior to that date will always have the option to buy Plan F. Learn more in this post about Plan F going away in 2020.
What’s the top Medicare supplement plan for 2019?
In 2019, Medicare supplement Plan F will still be the most comprehensive plan that you can buy. However, you should compare Plans G and N for value.
When Comparing Medicare Plan F vs Plan G vs Plan N
Be sure to give some thought to the type of coverage you think you’ll want over the long term. Here’s why:
In most cases, you do not have a guaranteed right to switch Medigap policies once you’re past your Initial Enrollment Period. Unless certain special circumstances apply, such as a move out of your policy service area, you do not have a guaranteed right to switch.
After your one-time Medigap open enrollment period expires, you’ll be subject to medical underwriting once you apply for a new plan. That means the insurance company can refuse coverage or charge higher premiums for your plan.
Some states like California and Oregon do have an annual enrollment period around your birthday month or your policy anniversary. You can change Medigap plans without medical underwriting or a premium penalty—but only for plans with the same or lower benefits than your existing plan. In other words, you can’t trade up. Learn more about other states with different Guaranteed Issue rules for Medigap.
Be sure to discuss your options with an experienced Medicare broker like Boomer Benefits. We can do a few cost-benefit analyses for the plans you like in so you enroll in the right plan the first time around.