Medicare and Medicare Supplements: Understanding the Difference

Understanding Medicare and Medicare Supplement Insurance

In recent media coverage about Medicare, I’ve noticed some confusion about Medicare and Medicare Supplements.  Each is a type of insurance, but Medicare is primary and the supplement is, well, just what the name implies: supplemental to the primary Medicare insurance.

When you have received medical services that are covered by Medicare, the current Medicare system applies your benefits under the  federal government’s health program for seniors, which usually pays 80% of eligible expenses.  A Medicare Supplement Insurance policy is a way to pay for some of the healthcare costs that Medicare doesn’t cover.  Medicare pays its share of costs, then the supplement policy pays its share.

As a Medicare beneficiary you have certain rights to purchase a Medicare Supplement policy.  When you first become eligible for Medicare you have an open enrollment period. During this period you have the right to purchase any Medicare Supplement policy available in your state.  If you do not enroll in a Medicare Supplement policy at open enrollment, “guaranteed issue rights” allow you to purchase a supplemental policy in certain situations.

For details on this subject, please see the referenced document Choosing a Medigap Policy: A guide to health insurance for people with Medicare.

If you have questions about Medicare and would like an evaluation of your Medicare Supplement Insurance policies, call Tom Ostdiek, President and Broker at Ostdiek Group, Inc. Phone 630-834-0125 or e-mail