NU Online News Service, Aug. 8, 11:21 a.m. – Older U.S. residents are paying an average of only 2.4% more for Medicare supplement insurance this year than they did in 2001, according to Weiss Ratings Inc., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The latest increase compares with an increase of 11% in 2001, and a 7.2% increase in 2000.

Older U.S. residents buy Medicare supplement, or Medigap, policies to pay some of the out-of-pocket costs associated with the basic Medicare program.

Rate increases slowed this year because federal legislative changes lowered some insurers’ claims costs, and some insurers dropped high-cost plans or got out of the market altogether, Weiss says.

The number of insurers selling Medigap policies has fallen to 146, down from 181 in 2000.

Weiss notes that rate changes varied widely from state to state.

Rates rose 11% in Rhode Island, but in Delaware they actually 3.1%, Weiss reports.