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If you're looking to retire soon, it's good to look ahead and try to determine if your medical expenses will be adequately covered in retirement. Many Americans don't discover the gaps in their Medicare coverage until it's too late, and they are forced to pay out of their own pockets for medical expenses they assumed would be covered.

Medicare coverage requires that you meet certain deductibles before coverage begins, and you must pay significant co-payments for many types of medical treatment. In addition, traditional Medicare does not offer a prescription drug benefit.

Because of these deficiencies in Medicare coverage, you may wish to consider purchasing a supplemental medical insurance policy called Medigap. Medigap is specifically designed to fill the gaps in your Medicare coverage. Although Medigap policies are sold through private insurance companies, they are standardized and regulated by state and federal law.

Under federal law, there are ten standard Medigap plans, each of which must cover certain specified services. Medigap policies pay most, if not all, of your Medicare coinsurance amounts. Some also provide coverage for deductibles and services that are not covered by Medicare, such as prescription drugs and preventive care.

Because Medigap policies are standardized, there is no need to compare provisions of the policies offered by various insurance companies. However, you should still compare the insurance companies themselves, as an insurance policy is only as good as the company behind it. In addition, Medigap premiums will vary from one insurance company to another, so you may want to do some research to find the best rate.