Compare Medicare Supplements: Coverage vs. Cost

Compare Medicare Supplements: Coverage vs. Cost

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

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When comparing Medicare Supplement plans, also called Medigap plans, the most important thing is to match the plan's level of coverage to your expected medical needs.

For example, if you expect to need ongoing health treatments or expensive procedures, it's usually more cost-effective to buy a plan with better coverage to reduce or eliminate your medical costs.

For most people who are enrolling in a Medicare Supplement plan, we recommend Medigap Plan G because it has the best coverage that's available to everyone. These plans can be expensive, starting at $120 per month on average. However, that total annual cost of $1,440 means that you'll eliminate most expenses for doctors, specialists, medical tests and hospital care.

Comparing the cost of Medigap plans

Unlike most other types of insurance, Medigap plans have standardized benefits. For each plan letter, you'll get the same coverage whether you use Aetna, Humana or another company.

However, a higher plan letter doesn't necessarily mean that the plan has better benefits. Using the coverage comparison chart below, we calculated how many categories of health expenses each plan covers and compared that against Medigap's plan cost and popularity.

As you can see, the Medigap plans with better coverage are more popular. Medigap Plan F and Plan G have very good benefits and account for 73% of all Medigap enrollment.

Medigap plan
Number of coverage categories
Cost
Popularity
F9$161+46%Only available to those eligible for Medicare before 2020
C8$169+4%
G8$120+27%Best coverage for new enrollees
N7$102+10%Moderate coverage
D7$139+1%
M6.5$114+less than 0.5%
B5$151+1%
L4.75$93+less than 0.5%Cheapest
A4$107+1%
K3.5$58+1%

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  • Coverage categories are based on the full coverage chart below with one point given for 100% coverage or foreign medical care, and partial coverage is scaled to 0.5 or 0.75 points.
  • Costs are an average of the cheapest plan offered in a sample of locations, including states with age-based increases and states without. Quotes are based on a 65-year-old female nonsmoker.
  • Popularity data shows the percentage of enrollment in 2020, as analyzed by AHIP. Figures do not sum 100% due to discontinued plans and enrollment in states that have alternate Medigap standards.

Generally, the Medigap plans with better coverage are also more expensive. However, this isn't always the case.

In part, that's because of the risk-based pricing strategies used by insurance companies. Also, some of the cheaper insurance companies may not issue every plan. For example, Mutual of Omaha typically has cheap rates, but it only offers Plans A, F, G and N.

Medicare Supplements: The basics

Medicare Supplement plans are also called Medigap plans because they fill in the coverage gaps left by Original Medicare (Parts A and B).

If you only had Original Medicare coverage provided through the government, you'd typically pay about 20% of your medical costs. By adding on a supplemental plan from a private insurance company, you can reduce or eliminate many medical expenses.

  • Who they're good for: When compared to Medicare Advantage, Medigap plans are usually best for those who are willing to pay more each month in order to have fewer medical expenses. They're also great for those who want robust coverage during the aging process, are chronically ill or want to avoid most deductibles or copays.
  • Best companies: The best Medicare Supplement providers include AARP/UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Cigna.
  • Coverage: Medigap provides good coverage with a range of plan options. With a Medigap plan, you're covered for any doctor that accepts Medicare, and most benefits are for the same procedures covered by Original Medicare.
  • Prescription drugs: Medigap plans don't cover prescriptions. For that, you'd need to purchase a separate Medicare Part D plan.
  • Add-ons: Typically, Supplement plans don't include as many add-on benefits as a Medicare Advantage plan. However, we're increasingly seeing major providers offer perks for Medigap enrollees like a wellness package for fitness, dental and vision.
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Medigap coverage comparison chart

The standardized benefits of Medigap plans make it easy to do a side-by-side coverage comparison.

As you can see below, all Medigap plans provide some level of coverage for Medicare Parts A and B coinsurance. This will reduce or eliminate your ongoing costs for medical care, hospitalization and hospice. However, coverage for the Parts A and B deductible varies by Medigap plan.

Keep in mind that plan costs can vary widely and even change over time. In part, this is due to state regulations about whether age can be used to determine the cost of a policy.

Plan A
Plan B
Plan C
Plan D
Plan F
Plan G
Plan K
Plan L
Plan M
Plan N
Medicare Part A coinsurance100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%
Medicare Part B coinsurance100%100%100%100%100%100%50%75%100%100%
Blood (3 pints)100%100%100%100%100%100%50%75%100%100%
Part A hospice care coinsurance100%100%100%100%100%100%50%75%100%100%
Skilled nursing facility coinsurance
100%100%100%100%50%75%100%100%
Medicare Part A deductible
100%100%100%100%100%50%75%50%100%
Medicare Part B deductible
100%
100%
Medicare Part B excess charges
100%100%
Foreign travel emergency
80%80%80%80%
80%80%
Out-of-pocket limitN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$6,620$3,310N/AN/A
Cost range (cheap)$107$151$169$139$161$120$58$93$114$102
Cost range (expensive)$386$411$366$281$410$364$135$211$239$302

Prices for policies are based on a sampling of quotes for a 65-year-old female nonsmoker. Rates vary by location, age, gender and other factors.

When comparing your options, don't get confused between Medicare's plans and parts. Medicare Parts A and B are your Original Medicare benefits through the government, and Medigap Plans A, B and other letters are the add-on coverage.

Also keep in mind that this standardized coverage is what's offered in 47 states and the District of Columbia. The three states of Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin each have their own standardized Medigap plans that are different from those in the rest of the country.

Medigap plan coverage descriptions

Medigap Plan A provides coverage for a few, basic categories of health expenses.

The plan is best for those who want coverage for the ongoing costs of medical care and hospital treatment but who are willing to pay for deductibles, skilled nursing facilities and other categories of medical expenses.

Medigap Plan A is most similar to Plan B, but Plan A doesn't cover the deductible for hospitalization or inpatient care. This means you'd pay the first $1,556 of your hospital bills out of pocket before the plan started covering your hospital or inpatient care.

Medigap Plan B covers all the same medical expense categories as Plan A, and it has additional coverage for the Part A deductible. This means Medigap Plan B is best for those who want a basic set of benefits and also expect to need hospital care.

If you have Plan B and go to the hospital, the plan will cover both the $1,556 deductible and any remaining hospital coinsurance bills, eliminating most of your costs.

Medigap Plan C provides good benefits, covering every category of care except the Medicare Part B excess charges. However, the plan is only available to those who were eligible for Medicare before Jan. 1, 2020. Plan C is most similar to Plans F and G. The main difference is that Plan C doesn't cover Medicare Part B excess charges.

These charges occur in the rare situations when the doctor or medical provider does not accept the amount that Medicare has agreed to pay for a medical service. For example, if the Medicare-approved amount for an X-ray is $100 and the facility doesn't accept that price and wants to charge $115, the excess charge is $15.

You can avoid these charges by asking the medical provider if they accept the Medicare-approved amount (also called the assignment). If they don't accept the amount, an excess charge of up to 15% will be billed to you, or if you have coverage, it's billed to your Medigap plan.

Medigap Plan D has good overall benefits and will cover your medical copayments for doctors, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and hospice care. It also covers the Medicare Part A deductible of $1,556, the Medicare Part B deductible of $233 and 80% of medical emergency costs when traveling abroad.

The benefits are slightly better with Plan D than Plan N, which has some additional copayments for medical care. However, Plan D is not offered as frequently as Plan N, and its monthly costs can be higher. As a result, there are more people enrolled in Plan N than Plan D.

Medigap Plan F has the best coverage of all the Medigap plans. However, you're only able to enroll if you were eligible for Medicare prior to Jan. 1, 2020. If you don't meet this requirement, consider Medigap Plan G, which has coverage that's nearly as good.

Even if you qualify for Plan F, it's not always a better deal than Plan G. For example, according to our sample cost data, Plan F could cost $41 more per month than Plan G. However, the only additional benefit is that you'd have coverage for the Medicare Part B deductible of $233. In this case, you'd be paying $492 more per year for Plan G in order to save $233.

If the cost difference between Plan F and Plan G is less than $19 per month, then it would be a better deal to get Plan F than Plan G.

Medigap Plan G has the best coverage available without any restrictions about who can enroll. The plan provides coverage for all categories except the Medicare Part B deductible, which is currently $233.

The only plan with better coverage is Plan F, which does cover the $233 deductible for medical care. But Plan F is only available for those who were eligible for Medicare prior to 2020.

Plan G is also a popular plan that's offered by most insurance companies, including low-cost providers. This means you may be able to find rates for Plan G that are cheaper than other plans with less coverage, such as Plans D and B.

Medigap Plan K is the most affordable coverage option. It covers more categories of medical expenses than Plan A, but in most cases, the plan only covers half of your portion of the medical bill.

For example, if you had a medical procedure that cost $1,000, Original Medicare would typically pay 80% or $800. Of the remaining 20%, Plan K would pay half, splitting the bill so that you would pay $100 and the Medigap plan would pay $100.

Plan K is a cheap way to get some coverage and reduce your medical expenses. But keep in mind that your medical costs will vary based on how much health care you use because only a portion of the Part B coinsurance is covered. The plan also has an out-of-pocket limit of $6,620 to prevent a situation when you need extensive medical care and your portion of the medical bills keeps adding up.

Medigap Plan L also covers a portion of medical charges, similar to Plan K. However, Plan L's benefits are at 75% for many categories, whereas Plan K's benefits are at 50%.

This means that with Plan L, a $1,000 medical bill would be split so that Original Medicare pays 80% of the costs, or $800. The remaining $200 is then split so that the Medigap plan pays $150, and you would pay $50. Plan L also has a better out-of-pocket maximum of $3,310.

Medigap Plan M is a midrange plan where the level of coverage falls between the cheapest and best options.

The plan covers coinsurance for hospitalization, medical care, hospice, skilled nursing facilities and 80% of medical emergencies during foreign travel.

Plan M is most similar to Plan N, except that Plan M only covers half of the Part A deductible. That means if you need hospitalization or inpatient care, the first $1,556 of the medical bills will be split between you and the Medigap plan before the Medigap plan pays all remaining coinsurance costs.

Medigap Plan N is another midrange plan. It has slightly better benefits than Plan M but worse benefits than Plan G.

Plan N has full coverage for the Part A deductible, whereas Plan M only covers half of the deductible. However, Plan N doesn't cover the Part B excess charges that are covered by Plan G. This makes Plan N a good alternative for those who want the robust benefits of Plan G but are willing to forgo that coverage category in order to save on monthly costs.

Importantly, Plan N does charge some additional copays for some medical care. You could pay up to $20 for some office visits and up to $50 for emergency room care that doesn't lead to being admitted to the hospital.

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

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How to compare Medigap plans

Comparing Medicare Supplement plans can help you choose the best medical coverage for your situation and help you save money. Here, we break down the four steps in comparing your coverage options.

1. Calculate your Original Medicare expenses for doctor and hospital care

To reduce how much you pay for most health care services, consider how well the Medigap plan covers the Medicare Parts A and B deductibles and copayments.

For most people, medical care and hospitalization are the two most common categories of health care expenses. They're also usually the categories that lead to the largest medical bills. That's why the most important step in choosing your Medigap coverage is to compare plans based on how they cover hospitalization and medical care.

Medicare Part A deals with hospitalization costs. If your Supplement plan covers 100% of the Part A deductible and copayments — as with Plan F and Plan G — that will eliminate any hospitalization costs within this category of coverage. With a cheaper option like Plan K, your costs will be reduced, but you'll still have some out-of-pocket medical expenses to reach the Part A deductible.

Your costs for hospitalization

Medigap plan
Part A deductible
Part A copayments
Plan F$0$0
Plan G$0$0
Plan K$778$0
No Medigap plan$1,556$0-$778 per day

As a reminder, the deductible is the amount of medical care you pay for initially before the insurance plan starts paying for some of your care. The copayments are the portion of medical costs you're responsible for after you meet your deductible.

Medicare Part B covers medical services like doctor appointments, specialists and medical tests. A Medigap plan's coverage for the Part B deductible and copayments will determine if these costs are eliminated or how much they're reduced. For example, Medigap Plan G covers 100% of the Part B copayments, so you won't pay anything for these medical services after you meet your deductible. In contrast, Plan K will reduce your Part B copayments, but it won't eliminate them.

Your costs for medical care (doctors, tests, etc.)

Medigap plan
Part B deductible
Part B copayments
Plan F$0$0
Plan G$233$0
Plan K$23310% of costs
No Medigap plan$23320% of costs

Keep in mind that coverage for the Part B deductible isn't available to new enrollees. This benefit is only available with Plans F and C, the two options that were discontinued for new enrollees after 2020. However, the deductible is a fixed cost of only a few hundred dollars. So even though paying this deductible is an added expense for policyholders, it won't have as much of an impact on your wallet as the coverage for the Part B copayments.

2. Calculate your total annual costs to find the most cost-effective plan

When comparing plans, the goal is to find the right level of coverage to match your expected medical needs. You can do that by looking at your total annual costs for both the insurance plan and any expected health care. Then, choose the plan that's the best deal.

The most effective strategy is to find the tipping point between the options you're considering.

For example, if one plan costs $100 per month and another costs $150, you would be spending $50 more per month ($600 per year) in order to get better coverage. In turn, the more expensive plan would need to save you $600 in medical costs for it to be worth it.

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The rule of thumb is that those who have chronic illnesses or who need ongoing medical care will usually get the best deal by paying more for a plan with better coverage in order to save on medical costs. In contrast, someone with low to moderate medical needs will generally save money by choosing a cheaper plan and paying more for their medical care.

Example situation: Moderate medical needs

Below, we'll compare the total costs for the Medigap plan and medical expenses for someone who has moderate medical needs and receives $3,000 worth of medical treatment. Here, the individual saved $467 during the year by choosing the cheaper plan.

Plan G
Plan K
Cost of plan $1,440 per year $696 per year
Doctor appointments, tests and other medical care $233 $510
Hospitalization and inpatient care $0 $0
Yearly total $1,673 $1,206
Example situation: Extensive health care needs and hospitalization

In another situation where a person needed ongoing health care and hospitalization, it can be a better deal to get a Medigap plan with more coverage. Here, the person received some hospital care and had $20,000 worth of additional medical treatment. By choosing Plan G, they could save $2,031 during the year.

Plan G
Plan K
Cost of plan $1,440 per year $696 per year
Doctor appointments, tests and other medical care $233 $2,230
Hospitalization and inpatient care $0 $778
Yearly total $1,673 $3,704

3. Identify other expense categories that may be important to you

Other Medigap categories of coverage ⁠— like skilled nursing, hospice and foreign travel care ⁠— may be an important part of your decision if you expect to need these services or you're at risk of needing these services.

For example, if you spend time traveling abroad, you can focus on Medigap policies that provide coverage for emergency care during foreign travel. If this category of coverage is important to you, consider Medigap Plan C, D, F, G, M or N.

Original Medicare rarely covers emergency health care outside of the country. But some Medigap plans will pay 80% of the bill for a medically necessary emergency. There's usually a $250 deductible and a lifetime limit of $50,000. The coverage is also limited to if the emergency starts within the first 60 days of your trip, making it a good benefit for those who frequently travel abroad but not applicable for long-term travelers or expats.

If you expect to be entering hospice, you'll get the best coverage with Medigap Plan B, C, D, F, G or N. These plans cover 100% of the Medicare Part A deductible and the Part A hospice coinsurance.

Keep in mind that Original Medicare (Part A) already covers most hospice services, so although a Medigap plan can further reduce your expenses, it won't have that big of an impact on your wallet as coverage for hospitalization or nursing homes. For example, if the Medicare-approved cost for respite care is $100 per day, your cost after Original Medicare would be $5 per day. That would add up to $150 for a month.

And if you expect to need care at a skilled nursing facility, you'll get the best coverage with Medigap Plan C, D, F, G or N. These plans cover 100% of the Medicare Part A deductible and the skilled nursing coinsurance.

Below are sample costs of what you can expect to pay for these services.

Medigap plan
Skilled nursing facility
Hospice care
Foreign travel emergencies
Plan F$0$020%
Plan G$0$020%
Plan K$0 to $972.5% of inpatient respite care and up to $2.50 for each prescriptionAll costs
No Medigap plan$0 to $195 per day5% of inpatient respite care and up to $5 for each prescriptionAll costs

4. Consider if you would like to save money by giving up provider flexibility or having a high deductible

There are two additional ways you can lower the cost of your Medigap plan, but they come with trade-offs. These options aren't available in all locations, and they're not offered by all providers.

  • High-deductible versions of Medigap Plans F and G provide the same level of coverage but require you to pay for the first $2,490 in medical expenses before the Medigap plan will start contributing to your health care costs.

    This makes them a great fit for those with low to moderate medical needs who don't want coverage for routine care and do want coverage if they have a medical emergency. These plans are priced very low, making them an affordable solution. But remember that you'll be paying out of pocket for both the insurance plan and the first portion of your medical care.

    For example, during routine care, an enrollee would initially have coverage through their Medicare Part B benefits. When getting medical care, they would pay the $233 deductible and 20% of additional medical costs. Then, if a medical incident resulted in $20,000 in medical bills, Medicare Part B would still cover 80% of the cost, leaving $4,000 of the bill unpaid. After your spending toward all deductibles and copays reaches $2,490, the Medigap plan's full benefits will kick in, eliminating any additional copayment charges.

  • A Medigap Select plan limits coverage to the insurance company's network of providers. They're typically offered for the more popular plans such as a Medigap Select Plan F or a Medigap Select Plan G.

    A Select plan will give you the same coverage as a traditional Medigap plan. However, instead of having coverage for any doctor that accepts Medicare, your coverage is limited to the doctors and hospitals that the insurance company considers in-network. If you're willing to give up some provider flexibility, a Select plan can help you reduce your monthly costs.


Frequently asked questions

What’s the most comprehensive Medicare Supplement plan?

Medigap Plan F is the Supplement plan with the best overall benefits. However, Plan F is only available for those who were eligible for Medicare prior to Jan. 1, 2020. The second-best Supplement plan is Medigap Plan G, which is available to all Medicare enrollees.

How do you pick a Medicare Supplement plan?

We recommend that you first compare your coverage options based on the Medigap plan letter. This can help you choose the right level of coverage for your situation. Next, you can compare insurance companies to see which insurer offers the best deal in your area.

Do all Medicare Supplement plans pay the same?

No, the amount of coverage for medical services changes based on the Medicare Supplement plan. However, plans have standardized benefits, so a Medigap Plan G from Humana will pay the same as a Plan G from AARP/UnitedHealthcare.

Why is Medigap so expensive?

A Medigap plan can drastically cut your medical expenses or even eliminate them. By paying more each month for a Medigap plan, many enrollees will have little to no costs for doctor appointments, hospitalization or medical procedures.


Sources and methodology

Medicare Supplement policy details are based on information from Medicare.gov and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medigap plan costs are based on a 65-year-old female nonsmoker and include estimates from states that have age-based price increases and states where age is not used to determine premiums.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.