Close to 50 million people are currently enrolled in Original Medicare (Parts A & B). Of those nearly 50 million people, an estimated 11 million have additional coverage through a Medigap plan. Medicare recipients shopping around for Medigap plans often find themselves questioning whether a Medicare Plan F, Plan G, or Plan N is the right plan for them. As these three plans are by far the most popular Medigap plans, choosing one for yourself can be a difficult decision.
Each of the three plans may save you a varying amount of money, which is always nice. A 2016 study shows that, on average, a 66-year-old couple will spend close to 60% of their social security benefits on healthcare.
Which is the Best Plan: F vs G vs N?
In terms of coverage, the most comprehensive plan on the market is Plan F. Plan F covers every gap in Medicare. The second most comprehensive plan is Plan G. Plan G covers nearly as much as Plan F, with the Part B deductible being the only difference between the two plans. Lastly, Plan N operates similarly to Plan G, but you pay the co-pays for doctor and emergency room visits under Plan N. Under Plan N, you also pay your excess charges.
Before we dive into the benefits and features of plans F, G and N, we’re first going to discuss how Medigap plans are standardized.
How are Medigap Plans are Standardized?
In most states, there are presently 10 separate, standardized Medigap plans (Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have their own plan standards). For consumers, this simply means that Medigap Plan A offered by Company X in San Francisco is the exact same plan as Medigap Plan A offered by Company Y in Denver. Costs and premiums may differ from state to state, but the plan’s benefits and coverage will be the same.
Medigap plans are private plans offered by insurance companies. Not every company offers all 10 plans. That said, any company that offers Medigap plans must, by law, offer Plan A. Additionally, if a company offers more than one plan, it must also offer either Medigap Plan C or Plan F in addition to the other plans it offers.
We have already said that Plan F is the most popular Medigap plan, and that is because about 55% of all Medigap plans currently operating are Plan F. The next closest plan is Plan C, holding about 9% of all current plans. This is according to the most recent Medigap enrollment data.
However, the plans with the fastest enrollment growth are Plan N and Plan G. Their popularity is growing rapidly – 33% and 25%, respectively – over last year’s numbers.
Below is everything important that you need to know about what Plans F, G, and N cover so you can choose the right plan for you.
Medigap Plan F
Medigap Plan F is by far and away the favorite Medicare Supplement plan of choice for people that want comprehensive benefits and first-dollar coverage on their healthcare costs. First-dollar coverage means that the plan covers both your Parts A & B deductibles, so you pay absolutely nothing, even before your Medicare benefits kick in. This type of comprehensive protection is helpful if you have serious or chronic health conditions, meaning you have high medical expenses each year.
As you might expect, Plan F has higher premiums, so make sure you take everything into consideration before choosing Plan F.
Here’s what’s covered under Medigap Plan F:
The deductibles for both Part A and Part B
Part A and Part B coinsurance and/or co-payment in full
Hospital coinsurance for a full year (365 days) after Original Medicare Part A benefits are used up
Part B excess charges
Hospice care coinsurance
Skilled nursing care coinsurance
Blood: First 3 pints per year (for approved procedures)
Foreign travel emergency care at 80% (up to plan limits)
Remember, Plan F premiums are generally the highest among all Medigap plans, though there is a high deductible option for Plan F if you are looking for lower premiums. With the deductible option, you pay the first $2,370 of your expenses out-of-pocket before the plan takes over.
There is some unfortunate news for Plan F: it is phased out as of 2020. Plan F is no longer offered as a new policy for any new Medicare enrollees. We still list Plan F here, though, because if you had Plan F before 2020, you will be grandfathered in and can keep your coverage.
Medigap Plan G
Recent trends show Medigap Plan G outperforming other Medigap plans in terms of enrollment. This is likely because Plan G offers the same broad coverage as Plan F, minus the Part B deductible, which is $203 in 2021.
Except for the deductible, Plan G and Plan F function in the same way.
One major feature of Plans F and G – a feature that no other Medigap plans offer – is that these two plans cover Part B excess charges. This component is vital if you want to maximize your ability to choose your healthcare provider.
If your provider does not accept Medicare, they can upcharge you up to 15% more than the standard Medicare rate for the same services. Without Plan F or Plan G, you will pay this money out of pocket.
Another benefit of Plan G is that there are no plans to phase this supplement out, so that is something to bear in mind when choosing between supplement plans.
Medigap Plan N
Plan N is also a popular option because it balances out protection against immense out-of-pocket expenses with affordable premiums.
Under Medigap Plan N, you have all the same coverage as Plan F except:
Plan N has many of the same features as Plan F except:
No coverage for Part B deductible
No coverage for Part B excess charges
Also, under Plan N, you may have a co-pay of up to $20 for doctor’s visits and $50 for emergency room visits that do not result in admission.
Introduced in 2010, Plan N is still a relatively new plan. This plan works well for people that do not mind cost-sharing in exchange for lower premiums. Also, like Plan G, there are no plans to phase out Plan N.
Is Medicare Plan G better than Plan F?
Plan F does have one more benefit than Plan G, which is that it covers your Part B deductible. That is the only real difference between the two plans. Is Medicare Plan F being discontinued?
Plan F was phased out for new Medicare enrollees after January 1, 2020. However, anyone on Medicare prior to that date will have the option to buy Plan F.
What’s the top Medicare Supplement plan for 2021?
Plan F was still the most popular – and most comprehensive – Medicare supplement plan in 2021. If you’re new to Medicare, or if you’re looking to save a bit of money on premiums, look at Plans G and F.
Comparing Medicare Plan F vs Plan G vs Plan N
Take your time when looking over coverage plans, and think about plans with a long-term lens. This is an important decision.
Generally, you are not given a guaranteed right to switch Medigap policies after your Initial Enrollment Period. Only special circumstances, like moving out of your policy area, afford you the right to switch plans.
Once your one-time Medigap Open Enrollment Period expires, you are at the whim of medical underwriters when applying for a new plan. This essentially means that an insurance company can deny you coverage or charge higher premiums to take you on.
There are certain states, such as California and Oregon, which do have an annual enrollment period. This typically occurs either around your birthday or your policy anniversary. You can change your Medigap plan during this enrollment period without medical underwriting or a premium penalty, but only for plans with the same or lower benefits as your existing plan. You cannot upgrade your policy.
Discuss your Medicare and Medigap options with an experienced and licensed Medicare broker. They will be able to give you rate quotes and other important advice to ensure you enroll in the plan that best suits your needs.