What do Medicare supplement plans cover?

Who is this for?

Learn more about how Medicare works.

If you're shopping for Medicare plans, this page will help you understand what you get from a Medicare supplement plan.

Medicare supplement plans don't work like most health insurance plans. They don't actually cover any health benefits. Instead, these plans cover the costs you're responsible for with Original Medicare. 

These costs can include:

  • Your Medicare deductibles 
  • Your coinsurance 
  • Hospital costs after you run out of Medicare-covered days 
  • Skilled nursing facility costs after you run out of Medicare-covered days

Here's how it works: You pay a monthly premium for your Medicare supplement plan. These plans are also called Medigap. In return, the plan pays most of your out-of-pocket expenses. So when you go to the doctor, for example, you don't have to pay the 20 percent coinsurance required by Medicare. Your Medigap plan pays it for you. With some Medigap plans, you might have a copay instead of the 20 percent coinsurance. 

Medicare supplement plans aren't your only option. Medicare Advantage plans help with your Medicare costs, too. They also offer additional health coverage that Medicare supplement plans don't.

The table below breaks down the differences between Medicare supplement plans and Medicare Advantage plans. It might be a good place to start if you're wondering which type of plan is right for you.

Medicare supplement vs. Medicare Advantage plans
Medicare supplement Medicare Advantage
You could have up to three different insurance cards. You have one insurance card.
You coordinate between Medicare, your Medigap plan and your Part D prescription drug plan, if you have one. One company coordinates all your care.
Helps pay for costs you have with Original Medicare. Many plans include extra benefits Original Medicare doesn't offer like dental, vision and prescription coverage.
No network rules. You can see any doctor that accepts Medicare. Some plans won't cover care you get outside their network.

Medicare supplement plans don't include Part D prescription drug coverage. So if you're thinking about buying one of these plans, you'll want to make sure you buy a separate Part D plan. A Medicare supplement plan might be a good choice for you if you already have prescription coverage through an employer or military benefits.

You can read more about how supplement and Medigap plans work in our help section.