Medicare supplement insurance is private medical insurance that helps pay for many of the health services Medicare doesn't cover. Because this type of insurance is designed to fill the gaps in Medicare coverage, it's commonly referred to as Medigap insurance.
There are 10 types of Medicare supplement plans, designated by the letters A through D, F, G and K through N. This guide will explain the key features of Medigap Plan N.
What Is Medigap Plan N?
Plan N is one of the newest Medigap plans to enter the market. Along with Plan M, it first became available in June 2010. At the same time, four previously offered Medicare supplement plans were discontinued. Congress authorized those changes in an attempt to simplify the options.
Plan N offers some of the most extensive coverage you can get in a Medicare supplement policy.
What Does Plan N Cover?
Like all Medicare supplement insurance, this supplement policy covers your Medicare Part A coinsurance and your hospital costs for up to an additional 365 days after Medicare stops paying. The federal government website Medicare.gov also lists the following benefits for Medigap Plan N:
- 100% of your Medicare Part B coinsurance or co-payment, except for a co-payment of up to $20 for certain office visits and up to $50 for emergency room visits that don't result in inpatient hospital admission.
- The first three pints of blood for a transfusion.
- Part A hospice care coinsurance or co-payment.
- Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance.
- Part A deductible — what you must pay out of pocket before your Medicare coverage begins.
- 80% of health emergencies when you travel internationally (up to the limits of individual plans).
The hospice benefit, offered at varying levels in every Medigap plan, first became available the year Plan N debuted on the market.
What Does Plan N Not Cover?
Medicare supplement Plan N does not cover the following costs:
- Medicare Part B deductible. This is the amount you must pay out of pocket for outpatient medical services before your Medicare benefits kick in.
- Part B excess charge. Health care providers opting not to participate in Medicare can levy excess charges of up to 15% above Medicare's allowable amounts for Part B medical services.
As with all other Medigap Policies, Plan N also doesn't pay for vision, dental, prescription drugs or long-term care.
How Much Does Plan N Cost?
Plan N premiums are typically much lower than those for Plans F and G, which offer the most comprehensive coverage. Monthly premiums vary widely depending on your location and insurance provider, and sometimes additional factors, like your age and health habits, come into play. You can use this calculator to estimate your 2021 Plan N premiums based on your zip code, and you'll see that prices can range anywhere from $80 to $400 depending on your area and the services available.
Some insurers use a community rating process, charging the same rate to all policyholders within a given geographic area. Others charge according to your age at the time of purchase, with lower premiums for younger policyholders. This is known as an issue-age rated premium. The third method, called attained-age rating, bases premiums on your current age, with the cost increasing as you get older.
How Does Plan N Compare to Other Popular Medigap Plans?
Beyond the Part A hospitalization coverage that all Medigap policies provide, the kind and amount of additional coverage depend on which plan you choose.
According to Medicare.gov, Plan N is one of five Medigap plans that cover 80% of the foreign travel exchange. It's one of six plans that cover 100% of skilled nursing care coinsurance, one of six covering 100% of the Medicare Part A deductible and one of eight that pays 100% of hospice care co-insurance. Plan N requires more cost sharing than some of the other medicare supplement plans with its co-payments for office and emergency room visits. Like most of the other Medigap plans, Plan N does not set an annual limit for your out-of-pocket expenses.
With 10% of all Medigap policyholders in 2019, according to the American's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Plan N was the third most popular option, behind Plan F (49%) and Plan G (22%). For years, Plan F has been the favorite Medigap policy because it pays the maximum allowed for each of the nine benefits Medicare supplement insurance can cover. However, as of January 1, 2020, Plan F is no longer available to buyers of new Medigap policies. Those who already own one Plan F can keep it.
The departure of Plan F from the market led to a rise in the popularity of Plan N. According to the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance, in 2020, nearly a third of new Medicare enrollees who purchased Medigap policies chose plan N. That makes it the second most popular Medigap option behind Plan G, selected by nearly 59% of enrollees.
Apart from not paying for your Part B deductible and excess charges and charging a co-pay for some doctor and emergency room visits, Medigap Plan N provides the same coverage as Plan F.
Is Medicare Supplement Plan N a Good Fit for Me?
Plan N may be right for you if:
- You want extensive coverage but don't need or can't afford the higher premium for a fully comprehensive plan.
- You want a Medigap plan that's widely available. About 62% of Medicare supplement insurance providers have Plan N policies in force, according to AHIP.
- You're a new Medicare enrollee looking for an alternative to the discontinued Plan F.
- You're in relatively good health and don't expect to require frequent visits to the doctor.
- You're okay with incurring some additional cost sharing for medical care in exchange for lower premiums.
- You frequently travel abroad.
What's the Best Time to Select a Medigap Plan?
The ideal time to choose and purchase a Medicare supplement policy is during your individual open enrollment period. That period extends six months, starting with the first month that you turn 65 and have enrolled in Medicare Part B. During this time, you can purchase any Medigap policy available in your state, regardless of your health.
If you apply for a Medigap plan outside your open enrollment period, the insurer may deny your application due to any health conditions.
Even though the number of options to sort through is a bit more manageable than it used to be, choosing the right Medigap plan can still feel overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide gives you a foundation for weighing the pros and cons of Plan N.
If you're shopping for a Medigap plan and recently became Medicare eligible or will do so soon, talk to an insurance provider to learn more about Plan N and whether it's right for you.