Supplementary vs. Secondary Insurance

I will soon go on Medicare and I am taking both A and B plans. I plan to keep my insurance with my home state, where I retired as a public school teacher. When I go on Medicare my state insurance plan becomes secondary. Of course, I am receiving much mail about supplemental insurance. What is the difference between secondary and supplemental insurance?


Secondary versus supplemental insurance is a topic that we haven't covered before. Here's some info that should help.

Supplemental Health Insurance:

  • Is designed to "fill the gaps" in other coverage.
  • Typically pays for expenses for which your primary insurance doesn't pay, such as coinsurance.
  • Cannot stand alone.

An example of Medicare Supplemental Health Insurance coverage is Security 65.

A Medicare beneficiary may purchase Security 65 coverage to supplement his or her Medicare benefits. When that beneficiary receives covered services, Medicare pays first; Security 65 may then pick up the deductible and/or coinsurance.

Any supplemental health insurance never provides basic benefits; it cannot stand alone as the beneficiary's primary coverage.

If Medicare is secondary, there is another coverage that is capable of providing some level of basic benefits. According to law, that program or coverage has primary responsibility, while Medicare has secondary responsibility. In your case, your state insurance will be secondary to Medicare and therefore Medicare has primary responsibility and the state insurance has secondary.

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