A Medicare Supplement Insurance policy from Blue Cross comes from a familiar face; Blue Cross covers the health insurance needs of more than 100 million Americans, and has been around since 1929.
Who is Blue Cross?
Officially known as the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), Blue Cross is technically a federation that licenses individual insurance companies (as of 2018 there are 36). BCBSA came about from the merger of Blue Cross and Blue Shield in 1982.
Since Blue Cross is an umbrella organization, there are many large, well-known insurance companies associated with it, including Anthem. It is important to understand that each of the companies under the Blue Cross umbrella are independent organizations.
In this article, we’ll discuss the following:
- Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance and Original Medicare
- Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Versus Medicare Advantage
- Benefits Provided by Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
- How Much do Blue Cross Supplement Insurance Plans Cost?
- Which Medicare Supplement Plans Does Blue Cross Offer?
- Urgent Update for Beneficiaries – Plans C, F, and G
- Is it Possible to Change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans?
- How to Enroll in a Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan
Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance and Original Medicare
Medicare Supplement Insurance was created to work in conjunction with Original Medicare. They are designed to fill in some of the gaps in Original Medicare. For this reason, these policies are commonly called “Medigap” insurance or policies.
Original Medicare (Part A – hospital benefits, and Part B – physician and outpatient services) was not designed to cover 100% of every medical expense. Rather, it was designed to cover most medical expenses. Beneficiaries are responsible for these costs:
- Part A and B Deductibles
- Part B Coinsurance of 20% for every Medicare approved service or procedure. There is NO cap on the total amount you can spend
- Medicare coverage while travelling outside the United States – 100% Beneficiary responsibility
When considering Medicare Supplement Insurance, it is important to keep these guidelines in mind:
- You must be enrolled in both Part A and Part B of Original Medicare
- You must continue to pay your Part B premium (and Part A if applicable)
- You cannot also enroll in Medicare Advantage
- Medigap Plans DO NOT cover prescription drugs – you will need a standalone Part D Drug Plan
- Your may have to be age 65 or older, depending on your State of residence
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts have created their own Medigap Plan laws and regulations, but the other 47 states have created Standardized Plans with identical laws and rules.
One key benefit to Medicare Supplement Insurance is that it allows you to see any doctor you wish to see, so long as they accept Medicare patience. There are no networks, and no referrals. This will be true regardless of which state you live in, or which Plan you choose.
Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Versus Medicare Advantage
Medigap coverage is completely different than Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) replace Original Medicare, but Medicare Supplement Insurance works with Original Medicare. They are different in these and other ways, too:
- Medicare Supplement Insurance generally costs more than Medicare Advantage Plans
- Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans usually allow for lower out of pocket expenses
- Many Medicare Advantage Plans utilize a network of preferred or required doctors from which you must choose. With Medicare Supplement Insurance, you will have no restrictions on which doctors you can see, as long as they accept Medicare.
Be sure to speak with an independent, licensed health insurance agent for a complete run-down on the differences between Medicare Supplement Insurance and Medicare Advantage.
Benefits Provided by Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans
Medicare Supplement Insurance policies issued by Blue Cross come with these benefits:
- 30-day free look period (easily cancel coverage within 30 days)
- Household discounts available if multiple policyholders present
- Portable coverage (use your coverage anywhere in the USA)
- Fitness benefit through Silver Sneakers (available in some states)
How Much do Blue Cross Supplement Insurance Plans Cost?
Blue Cross sets their own premiums for coverage; they are not standardized. Blue Cross’ premiums are subject to regulation, and can be based on:
- Age at enrollment in the Plan
- Age at each policy anniversary
- Status of tobacco use
- Standardized Plan selected
- Claims performance of the insurance company
Blue Cross, and every other Medigap insurer, can adjust their premiums, and they usually do so every year. As is the case with most insurance, you will pay a higher premium the older you are.
Which Medicare Supplement Plans Does Blue Cross Offer?
Blue Cross offers most of the standardized Medicare Supplement Plans, although they may not offer all of them in every state. Blue Cross does offer the three most popular plans, F, G, and N, which are summarized below.
Blue Cross Plan F
Plan F offers the most comprehensive coverage available, and pays the following benefits:
- 100% Coverage – Part A and Part B Deductible
- 100% Coverage – 365 extra hospital day stays beyond Original Medicare
- 100% Coverage – First 3 pints of blood
- 100% Coverage – Hospice copayment and/or coinsurance
- 100% Coverage – Medicare excess charges
- 100% Coverage – Medicare Part B costs (Beneficiaries are normally responsible for 20% of Part B expenses under Original Medicare).
- 100% Coverage – Nursing home coverage
- Foreign travel Emergency Coverage, up to Plan limits
When you have Plan F, you will probably not pay any money to any physician or provider, as long as the service or procedure you receive is a Medicare covered expense.
Blue Cross Plan G
Plan G was new for 2018, and functions just like Plan F. However, Plan G doesn’t cover the Part B deductible, so you are responsible for the first $185 (2019 amount, subject to yearly adjustment by CMS) of expenses for Part B services.
Plan G is an excellent value since it provides almost the same coverage as Plan F, but with a lower monthly premium.
Blue Cross Plan N
Plan N from Blue Cross is the next most comprehensive, and significantly less expensive than either Plan F or G. You will pay slightly more for medical services, through the use of small co-pays:
- Office visits – $0 to $20 co-pay
- Emergency visits – $2 to $50 co-pay
- Plan N does NOT cover Part B excess-charges
Medicare excess charges are amounts providers (doctors and hospitals) bill in excess of the Medicare-approved amounts. By law, these excess charges are limited to 15%. It is very easy to inquire ahead of time whether you might be subject to excess-charges.
Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans are Guaranteed Renewable for life, regardless of age or health. This means that once you are in the Plan, your coverage cannot be cancelled (as long as you make the required premium payments).
Urgent Update for Beneficiaries – Plans C, F, and G
There is a lot of confusion out there about Plans C, F, and High Deductible F. What you need to know is that these three Plans won’t be available to Beneficiaries who become eligible on or after January 1, 2020.
Any Beneficiary who is already enrolled in Plan C, F, or High Deductible F, or any Beneficiary eligible for Medicare BEFORE January 1, 2020 – even if you don’t have Medicare Supplement Insurance – will always have the right to enroll in these Plans in the future.
2020 is the first year a new Plan becomes available – High Deductible Plan G (HDG). HDG works just like regular Plan G except for a deductible of $2,180. The Plan will pay 100% of covered expenses after you pay the deductible. Premiums will be lower than for regular Plan G.
Is it Possible to Change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans?
This can be tricky. It is often difficult to switch Medicare Supplement Plans, whether companies or standardized Plans. It is easiest, and cheapest, to enroll in a Medigap Plan when you first become eligible, because you have a Guaranteed Issue Right during that time.
Your Guaranteed Issue Period begins when you first enter Medicare Part B and lasts for 6 months. During this time, you do not have to answer health questions, and you cannot be declined for coverage.
If you change Medicare Supplement Insurance Plans, or enroll in one for the first time, outside of your Guaranteed Issue Period, you will have to answer health related questions, your premium may be higher, and you could be declined for coverage.
However, there are some special circumstances that give you additional opportunities to enroll in Medicare Supplement Insurance under Guaranteed Issue, even after your initial 6 month window has expired:
- Returning to Medicare Supplement Insurance after trying Medicare Advantage for 12 months or less (Trial Right)
- Permanently moving out of your Medicare Advantage Plans service area
- Your Medicare Advantage Plan loses or fails to renew its contract with CMS
There are several other reasons for Guaranteed Issue; speak with an independent health insurance agent to see if you qualify for one.
How to Enroll in a Blue Cross Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan
Once you know which Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan you want, enrollment is easy. Use an independent licensed agent to enroll:
- By phone
- By paper application (face to face, or through the mail)