If you live in the state of Alaska and you’re over the age of 65, you have the opportunity to enroll in the Alaska Medicare plans offered by the federal government. Traditional Medicare, which consists of Medicare Parts A and B, is the base of all Medicare plans in Alaska.

For many people, Traditional Medicare is fairly comprehensive, but gaps in coverage still exist. And if you aren’t careful, these gaps could lead to expensive medical bills later on. The good news, though, is that coverage options exist which can help cover these “gaps” and protect you financially. We’ll go into more detail about those options here.

Alaska Medicare: Coverage and Benefits

All it takes is 40 quarters of employment history (a minimum of 10 years) for free enrollment in Medicare Part A. If you have less than 10 years of employment history, you will likely have to pay a premium for Part A.

Additionally, Part B comes with its own premium costs no matter what your employment history is. These costs are mandatory. Your local Social Security Office can supply you with more specifics on premium costs for Traditional Medicare.

No matter what, any senior citizen who applies for Medicare will receive Part A benefits. Part A benefits include hospital stays, treatment given in a hospital, and long-term end-of-life care. Medicare Part B is optional and has to do with outpatient services. Part B benefits cover options such as annual doctor visits, physical rehab, medically necessary supplies, and more.

Medicare Part C is technically a type of private health insurance known as Medicare Advantage. But the government is involved in paying for a large part of the costs, and you cannot purchase this type of coverage without qualifying for Medicare in the first place.

Unlike Original Medicare, you can’t opt out of Part B coverage in order to save money; Parts A & B are a package deal with a Medicare Advantage plan. Similarly, you can’t get prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D without accepting original Medicare Parts A & B.

Medicare Part A (Hospital Coverage)

  • Inpatient care in hospitals
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Hospice care
  • Home health care
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

  • Services from doctors and health providers
  • Outpatient care
  • Home health care
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Some preventive services
Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

  • Includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B
  • Usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) as part of the plan
  • Offered by Medicare-approved private insurance companies
  • May include extra benefits and services for an extra cost
Medicare Part D (Drug Coverage)

  • Helps cover the cost of prescription drugs
  • Run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies
  • May help lower your prescription drug costs and help protect against higher costs in the future

Medicare Insurance Programs in Alaska

Medicare beneficiaries have a significant presence in Alaska. There are a total of 69,301 enrollees in the state. Surprisingly, Alaska differs from the rest of the country in that 0% of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in an Advantage (otherwise known as Medicare Part C) program. 11.4% of those enrolled in Medicare are taking advantage of Medigap supplemental insurance. Beyond that, the remaining 88.6% of Alaskans may be supplementing their health care needs with a private insurance plan, benefits offered through their employer, or relying upon Medicare Parts A and B only and leaving themselves vulnerable to costly medical bills.

Of course, this does not apply to anyone who isn’t already enrolled or in the process of enrolling in Medicare. Click here for more information on Medicare enrollment.

How Come So Many People in Alaska Purchase Coverage Beyond Original Medicare?

Purchasing additional medical coverage beyond Traditional Medicare is the best way to protect yourself during your golden years from unexpected health care expenses. Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B cover most of what retired individuals need, medically speaking. Unfortunately, there are still holes in Medicare coverage that could leave you with some big bills if you aren’t protected. For examples, consult this helpful table:

Medicare Part A Costs in 2022 Medicare Part B Costs in 2022
  • Part A is premium-free for most
  • Part A deductible is $1,556 per benefit period
  • Inpatient hospital stay days 61-90 is $389
  • The standard Part B premium is $170.10
  • The annual deductible for Part B is $233
  • Medicare pays 80%, you pay 20% out-of-pocket

Obtaining supplemental health coverage could save you thousands in medical bills down the road. For a truly trustworthy and comprehensive plan, review the coverage options we’ve outlined below. The information can be invaluable for helping you make important decisions regarding your health care needs.

Lamentably, Alaska is one of the states where quality healthcare costs aren’t getting any cheaper anytime soon. This makes things more complicated for older individuals who are retired and on a tight budget. As you get older, your available finances will only shrink while your medical costs rise. But adding a supplement plan to your Medicare coverage can help ease these financial burdens.

There are different supplemental insurance services available for retired persons who are worried about the gaps in their Medicare coverage. You could consider applying for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), or you could purchase a Medicare Supplement Insurance policy, also known as “Medigap”. no matter which path you decide to take, you should first sit down and seriously consider your personal circumstances so that you can make a well-informed decision.

What are some of the health benefits that you may need to find extra coverage for if all you have is Original Medicare? Some of them include prescription drug coverage, extended hospital stays, and certain types of in-patient treatment. As comprehensive as Medicare is, it doesn’t cover everything. But supplemental coverage does a good job of filling the gaps. Whether they can fill those gaps at a price you can afford is a different story.

If you are considering supplementing your Medicare benefits, your two best options are either a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Supplement Plan. Medicare Part C is an entirely private entity; basically, a normal health insurance provider promises to offer you the same coverage as Original Medicare, if not a little bit more (albeit for a higher premium). Medigap Supplement Plans are simpler to understand and easier to work with – and they usually cost less, too.

Coverage Option #1: Alaska Medicare Supplement Plans

Most Medicare supplement policies are labeled as “Medigap” policies. If you have a Medicare supplement policy, you can be shielded from unexpected medical expenses incurred from the gaps in Medicare. Right now, there are 10 federally endorsed supplement plans available to the public. Plans A-D, F, G, and K-N are still in effect but plans E, H, I and J have been weeded out due to the Medicare Modernization Act of 2010. All 10 of the active plans provide for equal forms of coverage, regardless of your state or insurance company. Costs will vary, so make sure you shop around for the best deal.

Coverage Option #2: Alaska Medicare Advantage Plans

You can also replace Medicare Parts A and B with Medicare Part C, a.k.a. Medicare Advantage (MA). If you leave Traditional Medicare for Medicare Part C, your health care will become the responsibility of whatever private health insurance company you choose.

The federal government will no longer foot the bill for your medical costs. Despite this, you will still be eligible for medical benefits as outlined by Original Medicare. You might even have additional benefits depending on what plan you sign up with. This is because all Medicare Advantage policies are legally mandated to offer equal or better coverage options than what the government does.

In order to attract customers, many MA plans offer these extra benefits, including dental, vision, and prescription drugs, just to name a few. On the one hand, having all of your medical benefits under one plan is very convenient. Unfortunately, many Medicare Advantage plans come with costly monthly premiums and highly restrictive networks. If you’re considering Medicare Advantage, make sure you read all of the fine print, and that the plan will offer you the medical benefits that you need to stay healthy.

For those who are unsure, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations are the selective networks of doctors and facilities from which Medicare Advantage members can seek medical treatment.

What is the Difference Between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement?

There are several differences between a Medicare Supplement and a Medicare Advantage plan that most people aren’t aware of. A Medicare Supplement Plan helps cover any remaining costs after you settle your claims directly with Medicare. Medigap can even help pay coinsurance or deductible costs if such coverage is a part of your plan. Sadly, Medicare Supplement insurance is no longer legally allowed to provide prescription drug benefits. For that, you will have to apply for and purchase Part D coverage.

Although Medigap plans are only offered by private companies, they are standardized across all 50 states to offer the same coverage. There are 10 different plans, and the types of benefits they offer are designated by a letter (Medigap Plan F, for example, it’s the most comprehensive one; plans like Medigap Plan A or Medigap Plan B are less so). whether you live in Alaska or Florida, Plan F is Plan F and will always offer the same benefits. The prices, however, may differ.

Your other alternative is Medicare Advantage. These plans are much more comprehensive due to the fact that they replace Original Medicare with a private health insurance policy. But due to current federal laws, they’re not allowed to offer you fewer benefits than what you would get if you stuck with Original Medicare. In fact, many Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits in order to make it worth your while. Although Medicare Advantage sounds like a great deal, it isn’t perfect. Some of these policies come with very restrictive networks in order to remain affordable. These Networks can change at any time at the whim of your insurance company.

The price of your Medicare Advantage plan can also change depending on different economic factors. The federal government is paying the lion’s share of your premiums to your Medicare Advantage provider. Whatever else they decide to charge you is your responsibility. Whether Medicare Advantage is a financial burden or a cost-saving boon largely depends on where you live.

For any other questions you may have about the difference between Medigap and Medicare Advantage, please see the chart below. It contains some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic, as well as the most useful answers available. It’s helpful to have all the information you can get on these two supplement plans – otherwise, you could end up spending a lot more money on your health care needs than you should.

Questions Medicare Advantage Medicare Supplement
How are expenses covered under each plan? Average healthcare costs are calculated by Medicare based on your region, and that amount is paid by the government to your insurer. if there are any remaining expenses, your provider will charge you or premium. Your monthly premiums cover virtually all expenses, minus certain co-pays and co-insurance charges.
Will I still have to pay for Part B? Yes Yes
What will it cost me? Premium prices will vary based on where you live. Some lucky few may live in a region where costs are low and have no premium at all. Others may have a very expensive premium. Each plan comes with an affordable monthly premium based on the benefits you choose.
What will the plan cover? Medicare Advantage plans start by providing the exact same benefits as Original Medicare. they may offer additional benefits depending on what you ask for and what is available in your area. Comprehensive Medigap plans (such as Plan F) will plug 100% of the holes in Medicare Parts A & B coverage. Different plans will cover fewer benefits but will cost less.
Is it easy to budget my health care expenses? If you only go to the doctor as needed for preventive care, it’s easier to budget. But frequent and unexpected trips to the hospital or the doctor will make it difficult to budget. For the most part, you only need to budget for the monthly premium. Only in rare situations or with a less comprehensive plan will you have other expenses associated with your Medigap policy
Is my plan guaranteed? Or can it be canceled? It is within your insurance provider’s legal rights to review, change, or cancel your coverage at any time. They can also change how much they charge you as they wish. As long as you pay your monthly premium on time and the company stays financially solvent, your coverage is guaranteed.
Do I have to clear a pre-approval or pre-certification process? Yes, you will have to jump through some hoops in order to get pre-approved or pre-certified for a Medicare Advantage plan. There is no pre-approval or pre-certification process. As long as you qualify for Medicare, you qualify for a Medigap plan.
Am I limited to specific doctors or hospitals? For the most part, yes. Medicare Advantage plans to adhere to specific networks of doctors and hospitals which you must use if you need medical care. The only limit is that your doctor or hospital accepts Medicare. As long as they accept Medicare, you can get health care wherever you wish.
What type of plan is best for me? If you are younger, in relatively good health, and live in a densely populated area, you may save money with a Medicare Advantage plan. If you are older, if you have a tighter budget, and you live in a rural area, many of your healthcare-associated financial burdens would be alleviated with a Medigap plan.

Additional Alaska Medicare Resources

It’s likely that you still have some questions. Take a look at the number directory below. These contact numbers will put you in touch with local offices and Medicare supplement insurance experts who can give you the information you need in order to make the best decisions regarding your healthcare.

by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.