What Is Supplemental Health Insurance?

secure Editorial Standards

SmartFinancial Offers Unbiased, Fact-based Information. Our fact-checked articles are intended to educate insurance shoppers so they can make the right buying decisions. Learn More

Supplemental health insurance is an additional policy that covers medical expenses that your main policy does not cover. Dental and vision insurance are common examples of supplemental insurance, as they add benefits that are often unavailable in a standard marketplace health plan.

Learn about the different types of supplemental health insurance as well as how you can get coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Supplemental health insurance is intended to accompany your primary plan, covering benefits that are usually not included in a standard marketplace health plan.
  • Examples of supplemental policies include critical illness insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance and specific plans for dental, vision and hospital indemnity.
  • Factors such as geographical location, age, whether your policy includes coverage for any dependents and your provider will be used when calculating your rates.
  • Individuals can buy supplemental health insurance from their employers or directly from insurance companies, with options to suit different coverage needs and financial situations.

What Is Supplemental Health Insurance?

Supplemental health insurance is a type of coverage that you can purchase to help you pay for medical expenses that are not covered by your primary health insurance plan. This can include out-of-pocket expenses like copayments, deductibles and coinsurance, as well as services like dental, vision or hearing services.

How Does Supplemental Health Insurance Work?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires plans to cover a set of minimum essential benefits, including emergency services, hospitalization and preventive services. However, it doesn't mandate coverage for services like dental and vision care for adults. Dental and vision insurance plans are types of supplemental policies that can plug these coverage gaps.

In addition, you can buy supplemental health insurance to cover costs that exceed the limits of your primary plan. For example, if you’re hospitalized and your stay duration exceeds what your primary plan will cover, hospital indemnity insurance can pay toward the remaining bill.

It should also be noted that supplemental health insurance may even pay toward your out-of-pocket costs, with Medigap being a prime example. As a form of Medicare supplemental health insurance, Medigap policies are sold by private companies and can pay for your copays or coinsurance for services such as hospice care and skilled nursing care.

What Does Supplemental Health Insurance Cover?

Supplemental health insurance policies provide highly targeted coverage unlike the wide coverage scope a standard ACA plan provides, so what will be covered largely depends on the type of policy you buy. Below you can see a list of different plans so you can compare insurance.

Insurance Type


Accidental death & dismemberment

Offers a payout in case of death or loss of limbs/sight due to sudden accidents

Short-term disability

Can cover a portion of the insured's salary if they're temporarily unable to work

Long-term disability

Provides 50% to 80% of your prior earnings if disabled for an extended period[1]

Critical illness

Offers lump-sum payment in case of a specific serious illness such as heart attack or stroke

Hospital indemnity

Provides a fixed daily or weekly payment during hospital stays

Dental insurance

Helps cover the cost of dental care procedures, such as teeth cleanings

Vision insurance

Reduces costs associated with eye care, such as exams, lenses and frames

Fixed indemnity

Pays a set amount per period or incident, regardless of actual medical costs

Medicare supplement (Medigap)

Supplements Original Medicare by covering out-of-pocket costs

Secondary health insurance

Complements primary health insurance to cover additional costs after primary care has been used

Cancer insurance

Provides financial coverage for cancer treatment and associated expenses

Life insurance

Pays a sum to a designated beneficiary upon the insured's death

What Isn’t Covered?

Supplemental insurance provides very specific forms of coverage and as a result, there will always be exclusions based on what type of policy you buy. For example, Medigap is a type of supplemental insurance product that pays only toward out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries, such as copays and coinsurance and not much outside of that. Similarly, dental and vision insurance will not cover any expenses unless they involve your mouth or eyes respectively.

Contrast this with a primary health insurance plan purchased from the ACA marketplace and you will find that the coverage scope for supplemental insurance policies is far more limited.

That said, with the exception of Medigap and regardless of what type of supplemental policy you buy, your out-of-pocket expenses are usually excluded from coverage and you will be responsible for paying for your copays, coinsurance and deductibles whenever you see a healthcare provider.

How Much Does Supplemental Health Insurance Cost?

What you pay for supplemental health insurance is going to vary based on the type of coverage you purchase, as well as where you live, possibly your age, if there are dependants and the provider you get coverage through. For instance, you could spend as little as $5 per month for vision insurance or a monthly fee of $20 for accident insurance.[2][3]

Who Should Buy Supplemental Health Insurance?

The best supplemental health insurance and whether you need it in the first place will depend on your individual health needs, financial situation and the coverage gaps in your primary health insurance plan. For instance:

  • Accidental death & dismemberment insurance: Best for individuals with risky jobs or lifestyles.
  • Short-term disability insurance: Ideal for workers who lack an emergency fund and require income protection in case of a temporary inability to work due to illness or injury.
  • Critical illness insurance: Suitable for individuals with a family history of serious illnesses like heart attack, stroke or cancer.
  • Vision insurance: Ideal for those needing glasses or contact lenses, or who have a history of vision issues.

How To Get Supplemental Health Insurance

There are a couple of primary routes you can take when looking to obtain additional health insurance coverage. One option is to explore the benefits your workplace may offer. Many employers include supplemental insurance in their benefits packages, which often cover extras such as critical illness, accident insurance, dental and vision, providing an added layer of financial protection.

Alternatively, you can approach insurance providers directly. Companies like Aflac, MetLife and Mutual of Omaha specialize in a variety of supplemental health insurance policies. By reaching out to them, you can delve into the specifics of different plans and select one that aligns with your healthcare needs and financial circumstances. Whether you choose to coordinate with your employer or contact insurers yourself, both paths can lead to securing the extra coverage that suits your situation.

Ready To Shop for Health Insurance?


What is the difference between health insurance and supplemental insurance?

Health insurance typically covers a broad range of healthcare services and procedures, while supplemental insurance is additional coverage that pays for costs not covered by regular health insurance, such as copayments, deductibles and non-covered services like eye exams and teeth cleanings.

Who is supplemental health insurance best for?

Supplemental health insurance is best for individuals who want extra coverage for expenses not covered by their standard health insurance, such as vision, dental and hearing services. It is also beneficial for those who face specific health risks or financial gaps due to chronic conditions, high-risk jobs or lifestyles that may result in additional medical expenses.

What is the difference between a PPO and a supplemental plan?

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a type of health insurance plan that offers a network of healthcare providers and allows for some coverage when using out-of-network providers, typically at a higher cost. A supplemental plan is an additional policy that works alongside a primary health insurance plan to cover extra costs like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles and often does not restrict members to a network of providers.

Can I buy supplemental health insurance anytime?

Outside of plans purchased from your employer, you can generally purchase supplemental health coverage at any time for many policies. These plans are not often bound by the open enrollment periods that standard health insurance plans typically adhere to.

What is the difference between an HMO and a supplemental plan?

An HMO (health maintenance organization) plan is a type of health insurance that provides coverage within a specific network of doctors and hospitals that does not cover out-of-network care. A supplemental plan, on the other hand, is additional insurance that individuals can purchase to cover services and out-of-pocket expenses not covered by their primary health insurance.


  1. Bross & Frankel. “How Much Does Long-Term Disability Pay?” Accessed November 4, 2023.
  2. EyeMed. “Eyemed Individual and Family Vision Plans.” Accessed November 4, 2023.
  3. UnitedHealthcare. “5 Reasons an Accident Insurance Policy Might Be Right for You.” Accessed November 4, 2023.

Get a Free Health Insurance Quote Online Now.