According to the AARP, 44 million people are currently enrolled in Medicare — that’s around 15 percent of the U.S. population. Medicare helps individuals aged 65 and older by providing them with a government-funded option for insurance. However, Medicare still requires that individuals pay at least some of their costs out of pocket — a requirement that some beneficiaries struggle with.

As a result, individuals on Medicare are offered the opportunity to purchase additional insurance through the Medicare supplement program, Medigap. Unlike Medicare savings programs, Medigap is purchased from a private insurance company, but the two work similarly. Medigap provides patients with the opportunity to receive additional help in paying their healthcare costs.

What Is Medigap?

Medigap is aptly named for the fact that it closes the gap between Medicare coverage and the price of premiums, deductibles, copayments, etc. It can also be used to help cover the cost of healthcare in other countries. This is particularly beneficial to those who travel often.

However, Medigap does not cover certain other healthcare options such as dental, vision, hearing aids, at-home nursing, and long-term care. Some plans cover prescription drugs, but most do not. It is important to thoroughly understand what a Medigap policy will and will not pay for before you sign up for it.

What Are the Different Medigap Plans?

Upon signing up for a Medigap policy, you will pay a monthly premium the same way you would with other insurance. Unfortunately, Medigap plans do not cover two separate people—even those who are married—like other plans might. Individuals who are married and both qualify for Medicare and Medigap policies will need to purchase individual Medigap plans.

There are 14 different Medigap plans available, listed with names from A through N. New beneficiaries are unable to purchase plans E, H, I, or J. Each insurance company will offer different prices but the benefits are the same. Someone who chooses an A plan from one company will receive the same benefits as someone who chooses the same plan from a different company. Policies will differ by state, however, if you live in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, or Minnesota.

How Do I Apply for a Medigap Policy?

You can apply for a Medicare supplement through Medigap by choosing and purchasing a plan through a private insurer. You are eligible to apply during a six-month period from the month in which you turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B. If you are outside of these time frames, you may still be able to sign up for a Medigap policy. However, there is no assurance that an insurer will cover you.