The federal government has tried to standardize Medicare across the country. A medicare card works at doctors offices in every state in the U.S. . Most medicare supplement plans will be the same across the country too. Other parts of medicare can vary from state to state.
Medicare Advantage plans have the widest variety. From one county to another, plans can offer different benefits. Some companies do not offer plans in every county, and the price and coverage can vary. Oklahoma counties can have as few as 4 plans and as many as 46. (You can’t even get a Medicare Advantage plan in Alaska!)
Due to this variable coverage, Medicare offers a special election period for people that have moved. Even moving a few counties over can mean changing plans and networks.
Advantage plans can be a great choice, but be sure to find what works best for you and your goals.
Medicare supplements are also known as Medigap plans. They are standardized across the country (mostly), but they aren’t immune from state laws. Medicare recipients in California, Oregon and a few other states get extra perks.
To protect consumers, these states have enacted a “Birthday Rule” for medicare supplements. In most states, seniors that can’t health qualify for a new supplement are stuck with what they have. The birthday rule allows seniors to change their Medigap plan without health qualifying. Each year on their birthday, Medicare recipients can shop around for a better price.
Washington has taken this a step further. Their laws guarantee the issue of any Medicare Supplement plan regardless of health. As long as the recipient is switching from one Medigap plan B-N to another, and has waited 90 days, they are accepted.
Some states don’t even subscribe to the lettered plans laid out by the federal government. Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Minnesota have their own medigap tier. Their base plans with additional riders can be purchased in the same way a normal medigap plan can. These riders allow the basic plan to meet the same federal requirements as plans F, G or N . Like with the lettered plans, each one covers some of the deductibles and charges of Medicare.
Getting started in Medicare can be intimidating. It often feels like things are intentionally confusing. Choosing between Medigap and Advantage plans, keeping up with changes in your state and federal regulations and even just keeping track of all the cards and phone numbers a patient needs can be a nightmare. Find an agent that you trust, preferably one that is contracted with multiple companies, and let them deal with the confusion. Licensed insurance agents have a fiduciary obligation to do right by their client. With their specialized knowledge, they can keep you covered and up to date with the latest products at the best prices.