The first thing to know about Medicare Supplement Insurance is that its name is interchangeable with Medigap. The two terms describe the same product.

Here’s the short answer of what Medigap is: It does exactly what you’d expect. It supplements and fills in gaps left by Medicare.

Medigap breaks down into 10 different plans which differ in coverage and are purchased from private health insurance companies. The plans are aptly named Plan A through Plan N. Note, however, there is no Plan E, H, I, or J. Essentially, Plan A provides the most basic benefits that Medicare does not, including co-payments and extended hospital care costs. Each plan after Plan A covers the same basic package as well as an additional benefit.

A few basics to know about Medigap: these plans can only cover an individual—no spouses or children. To acquire Medigap, an individual must already own Medicare Part A and Part B. Two Medigap policies (i.e. Plan A and Plan N) cannot be owned simultaneously.

Medigap comes with a few safeguards to protect consumers.

Policies can be cancelled and refunded in full if done so within a 30-day time period. The policy must come with the option to renew for as long as the owner pays the premiums. A Medigap plan that extensively duplicates the coverage a client already owns is impermissible. Non-Medigap policies that are similar must come with clearly identifiable disclaimers that they are not in fact Medigap policies.

Lastly, if one purchases Medigap within 6 months of enrolling for Part B of Medicare, they cannot be denied coverage, regardless of illness and condition. If you do not buy Medigap within 6 months of enrollment for Part B, coverage can be denied.

Open enrollment eligibility for Medigap opens on the first day of the month in which a consumer is 65 or older and enrolled in Part B of Medicare.

Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin do not participate in Medigap and have their own state-issued plans. Various other states do not offer all plans either. For information on which plans are offered in your state, please give us a call at 1-800-823-4852.