Why Should You Use an Independent Broker to Choose a Medigap Plan

There are several options for comparing and enrolling in a Medigap plan. First, you can contact each company that offers plans in your area to compare plans and rates. Although this is certainly an option, it is one that would be incredibly time-consuming. The alternative is using an independent broker – an independent broker allows you the opportunity to compare multiple options in a centralized place, get unbiased feedback about the various plan options and make an informed choice.

Often, people end up choosing a plan that is higher in price than other options, without understanding the standardization of plans which mandates that all companies offer the same coverage and work the same way. This can lead to paying more for the exact same thing. An independent broker’s job is to help you compare the options to pick a plan that is competitively-priced for the coverage level you want.

If you have questions about this or want to look at the options in your area, please contact us online or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Cards Will No Longer Use Social Security Numbers

Medicare cards will no longer use Social Security numbers as required medicare cardsby a measure in the big Medicare bill signed by President Obama last week. Since its inception, Medicare has used beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers as a part of the Medicare claim number, which is displayed on the red, white and blue Medicare card.

Medicare has four years to implement this large change for new Medicare beneficiaries that sign up for Medicare. Medicare has four additional years to replace existing Medicare beneficiaries cards with a new randomly-generated Medicare claim number. This means that, according to the new bill, Medicare has eight years to fully implement this change.

This change is a result of the increasing incidence of identity theft and need to provide protection for beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers. Most other health insurance companies and programs have long since abandoned the practice of using Social Security numbers as the identifying marker on ID cards, including Medicare Advantage plans (privatized Medicare plans).

The change will, of course, be very costly to implement, and Congress has provided $320 million over four years to implement. This money will come from Medicare trust funds which are financed with payroll taxes and other beneficiary premiums.

Currently, over 4,500 people a day sign up for Medicare, and it is expected that 18 million more people are expected to qualify for Medicare in the next decade. Many new Medicare beneficiaries have been shocked, in today’s climate of identity theft, to find that their Social Security numbers are prominently displayed on their Medicare cards, so this will be a welcome change.

Secure Medicare Solutions client, Larry Williamson, said of the change, “I think it’s high time Medicare caught up with most other organizations that have ceased using Social Security numbers as ID numbers. Medicare cards are cards that you have to have in your wallet, and using the Social Security number just opens you up for the possibility of theft or abuse.”

The plan right now is for Medicare to begin using randomly-generated Medicare claim numbers, which will still be displayed on beneficiaries’ Medicare cards but will not provide the same vulnerability to hackers and thieves.

Garrett Ball owns Secure Medicare Solutions, which is an independent Medicare insurance agency. If you have questions about this change or want additional information, you can contact us here.

 

Senate Passes Medicare Doc Fix Bill, Sends to President Obama

There is big Medicare-related news out of Washington today, as the Senate passed medicare doc fix
the so-called “Medicare doc fix” bill late last night by a resounding 92-8 majority. This bill was recently labeled as the MICRA – Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act. President Obama has already said he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk. So, what exactly does this mean for you, the Medicare beneficiary?

Let’s start from the beginning. First and foremost, this bill is in response to the April 1 expiration of the sustainable growth rate for physician payments. When this expired, a 21% cut went into effect for doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare patients. CMS – the government organization that administers Medicare – announced that it would essentially “hold” claims for 14 days until this bill could be passed and signed. Medicare patients should see no effects from this – or really, even know that it is going on behind the scenes – but it is interesting to know nonetheless.

Even more interesting and important is what is actually in the bill itself. Here is a bullet-point summary of what the bill entails (bolded sections of particular importance to Medigap policyholders):

  • The bill repeals the sustainable growth rate of physician payments that had been in effect since 1997 – this is the so-called Medicare doc fix.
  • It replaces that with a .5% increase for physician payments each year for the next five years.
  • The bill created financial incentives for doctors to bill for quality care (“quality care” not defined at this point but will likely follow recent CMS directives).
  • The bill provides 7.2 million over two years for Community Health Centers.
  • It extends funding for nearly two dozen other programs – including federal abstinence programs and extra payments for rural hospitals.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will receive $5 billion for two years.
  • It increases the Medicare Part B and Part D income-related adjustments for premiums for high-earners.
  • In 2020, it requires Medicare Supplement policyholders to pay for the Medicare Part B deductible (currently $147/year) themselves. This eliminates “first dollar coverage”. And, this also means that the Medicare Supplement plan offerings (Medigap coverage chart) would also have to be revamped at some point to account for these changes. Plans F and C would likely be eliminated for new policyholders starting in 2020. If the past is any indication, current Medigap policyholders will be “grandfathered in” and allowed to keep their plans even if it includes first-dollar coverage. However, at that point (2020) or maybe before, there would likely be a considerable amount of rate pressure on people in first-dollar coverage plans, as there would be no “new” policyholders coming into those plans.
  • The overall cost of the bill is approximately $210 billion, with two-thirds of that being added to the Federal deficit and the remaining $70 billion in cost being split between Medicare recipients and providers.
  • Lastly, a previously scheduled hospital payment increase of 3.2 percent – scheduled for 2018 – will be delayed and spread over 6 years.

So, how will this, particularly the change in Medigap design, impact you? In 2010, the Medigap plans were revamped to include several new plans and remove several duplicate plan designs. When that happened, policyholders that had one of the “old” plans were allowed to keep their plan. It is very likely this would be the case with this plan design change as well; however, that will be something to keep an eye on. Obviously, the 2020 start date of this requirement gives plenty of time – even at Government pace – to revamp the coverage chart and implement the changes.

Also, the “doc fix”, which “permanently” replaces the sustainable growth rate should provide some stability to providers who accept Medicare patients and payments. This elimination of payment amount uncertainty is always, ultimately, a good thing for Medicare recipients. It is expected the President Obama will sign the bill into law within the next couple of days.

Garrett Ball is the owner of Secure Medicare Solutions, an independent Medicare insurance brokerage. If you have any questions about this or want additional information about current Medigap plans, please contact SMS at 877.506.3378 or online.

Secure Medicare Solutions Website Re-Launches

Secure Medicare SolutionsAfter a complete overhaul, Secure Medicare Solutions’ web presence is re-launching today. The re-launched site sports a different design, different platform, and new, easy-to-understand information about Medicare. It is a resource for people shopping for Medicare Supplement insurance, trying to learn more about Medicare and Medigap or for people wanting to learn more about the Secure Medicare Solutions agency.

“The site is designed to be easy-to-use and informative,” said Garrett Ball, President of Secure Medicare Solutions. “Our focus has always been about educating people about Medicare and Medicare Supplements. We want this to be a one-stop shop for people who want to learn about the plans, compare them in a centralized place and make informed choices.”

The blog section of the site has also been re-designed and will be updated more frequently with information about Medigap plans and Medicare changes/information. Please bookmark and check back often for updates and information.

Secure Medicare Solutions, Inc. is an independent Medicare insurance agency. We are headquartered in North Carolina but we serve 40 states nationally and specialize specifically in Medicare and Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) and Medicare Part D. For more information about Medigap plans specifically, visit this page. If you want to get a comparison of the plans available for your area, visit our Medigap quotes page. You can always reach us by phone, toll-free, at 877.506.3378.