Medicare is a U.S. health insurance program designed mainly for people aged 65 or older. Medicare comes in four parts, each with its own benefits. Each part of Medicare also has its own deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance costs. Many seniors need help paying these extra Medicare charges and purchase Medicare supplements to close the gaps. Many Medicare supplements also offer extra health insurance benefits. Medicare supplements are sold by private companies according to service area. In Minnesota, Blue Cross Blue Shield sells three different Medicare supplements, as of 2011.
The Senior Gold is the only Medicare supplement Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota sells to individuals. All Medigap plans require a monthly premium payment. The Senior Gold has two different premiums, one for smokers and other users of tobacco products and one for those who are tobacco-free. As of 2011, the tobacco-free premium was $202 per month, while the standard (not tobacco-free) premium was $266 per month.
Senior Gold has no annual deductible. It does offer the option of preventive screening and services coverage for an additional monthly fee. In 2011, this fee was only $2.65 monthly. If you decide to take the preventive services option, you will pay nothing for all preventive services not covered by Medicare, up to a total of $120 annually.
Senior Gold offers many Medicare supplemental benefits. Office visits, both to primary care doctors and to specialists, are covered at 100 percent, as are inpatient hospital visits. All emergency room visits are also covered at 100 percent. The plan also offers international emergency room visits for a 20 percent co-insurance payment. Additionally, if you go outside the plan’s service area for treatment but stay inside the U.S., you can still use your benefits with any provider who will accept Medicare. Senior Gold also comes with a 24-hour nurse support phone line, a smoking cessation program, discounts on hearing aids and glasses and access to an online wellness center.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota does offer two other Medigap supplements to employers with 50 or more employees. They have most of the same benefits as the Senior Gold, but different costs. The Plan L Enhanced is a cost-sharing plan with lower monthly premiums than the Senior Gold. Instead of 100 percent coverage of services, Plan L covers 75 percent. As of 2011, Plan L Enhanced has an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $2,320. BCBS of Minnesota also sells a group Plan K Enhanced, another cost-sharing plan which covers benefits at 50 percent and has an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $4,640.
Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.