Medicare and Medigap Trends – Five Things to Keep Your Eye On

going on medicareLike many things, insurance is always changing. This has been particularly true over the last few years, and we believe it will continue to be the case into the future. As such, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on some trends that affect Medicare and Medigap insurance. We’ve listed five Medigap trends here that are pertinent for people on Medicare.

  1. Doctor acceptance of new Medicare patients. Some people have been concerned about this for years, and we have heard reports of doctors not seeing Medicare patients in certain geographic areas. Overall, I don’t think this will become a prohibitive problem. But nevertheless, if it occurs in large numbers, it could create quite a “bottleneck” effect for Medicare patients at doctor’s offices that do accept Medicare patients.
  2. Reduction in number of choices in Medicare Advantage plans. This is a trend that is certainly already under way. In many counties, there were 20/30 + plan choices in past years. Those numbers have been greatly reduced, and there are now some counties that have just a couple of companies offering plans. This is due, at least in part, to government regulations that have made it more difficult to make money in and participate in this market. Overall, I think its clear that lack of competition will be a bad thing for the overall appearance of these plans.
  3. Growth of “newer” Medigap plans – a move away from Plan F. This, too, is a Medigap trend that has already begun in earnest. Plan F, which is the most comprehensive Medigap plan, still has the majority of the market share in Medigap plans. However, with the onset of the 2010 re-standardization of plans, there are new offerings, some of which may appeal to different people and have a lower premium. One of the plans that appears to have caught on the most is Plan N, which is a lower level of coverage that still offers comprehensive Part A coverage but does have some out of pocket costs under Part B charges.
  4. The Online Movement. Because you’re reading this online, we’ll assume this comes as no surprise to you. As the next generation of “age-ins” turns 65, the likelihood will continue to increase that they are computer-savvy and more and more comparing and shopping for Medigap and Medicare plans will be done online. Companies will continue to endeavor to meet this demand by making more and more information available online. This and other Medigap trends will certainly have an impact on how companies “market” to the new generation of turning-65ers.
  5. New Medigap Companies Entering the Marketplace. We have seen several companies that are new to the Medicare market enter the fray over the last couple of years, trying to capture the large influx of Baby Boomers aging into Medicare. This includes companies like CIGNA, AFLAC and others, who have either begun or expanded their Medicare plan offerings recently. This will likely continue, with companies that have not offered Medigap plans beginning to do so.

Overall, it is a good idea to stay apprised of any changes to Medicare and Medigap insurance. Certainly, all of them will not affect you, and some may not come to fruition, but being aware of them allows you to be prepared if or when they do.

As always, if you have any questions or want to discuss further, you can contact us at 877.506.3378 or online.

Medicare Supplement Rates – Why You Should Review Plans Periodically

Medicare supplement rates go up over time, just like rates with other types of insurance. Most companies increase rates each year on your policy george bush looking guyanniversary date, while others do it annually with the calendar year. Others may have less frequent but larger increases. Regardless of when or by how much companies increase rates, the common thread is there – Medicare supplement rates go up over time. There is, unfortunately, no way around this. So, what can you do about it?

Well, first of all, it is important to understand that Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigap plans) are completely standardized. The plans are the same regardless of which company sells the plan to you. In other words, if you have a Plan F, you can easily compare other Plan F option rates (from other companies) with the assurance that you are comparing “apples to apples”. This actually makes Medicare supplement rates the easiest to “shop” and compare.

Today, I spoke with a lady that was paying $210/month for her Medigap Plan F. For her age and zip code, the Plan F rates actually start at $148/month. She has had her plan for only 3 years, but she is paying almost $800 a year too much for her insurance, when she could easily get equivalent coverage and “pocket” the savings. Moreover, if she switched to Plan G (Find out why someone would/should do this), she could increase her net savings by another couple hundred dollars a year, all without sacrificing on coverage, claim payments, etc due to the standardization of plans.

Situations like the above story are an everyday occurrence. So many people – especially the Medicare market, frankly – prefer the “set it and forget it” method for insurance. However, this is a big mistake, particularly with a standardized insurance product with high price variability like Medicare Supplement plans.

So, what are the steps in comparing/reviewing rates to see if you can save money? Well, first of all, you should know what you have. Know what plan you have and what you are paying. You should be able to get this information by looking on your insurance card or policy and your bank statement. Next, contact an independent agent or broker that can help you compare plans in an unbiased way and provide you with a full comparison of the available options. We do that (Medigap quotes from SMS) but any agent that does business like us would be able to provide this information.

Next, you can review the quotes and make your decision (if there is a savings to be had, which there likely will be if you have had your plan for a year or more) based on price and, to a lesser extent, company rating/reputation. All you have to do is apply for a new plan with a future effective date (without cancelling your old plan). Then, once it is approved, you can cancel your old plan effective the same date that the new one will start and that’s it! You are all set and can “pocket” the savings.

If you have questions about this or how the process works, you can call us at 877.506.3378 or contact us online.

Best Medicare Supplement Plan – The Right Plan For You

The best Medicare Supplement plan is the one that is right for you. There is certainly a lot of information available regarding Medicare and Medicare Supplement plans. And, a great deal of it comes to your mailbox when you are turning 65 or going on Medicare. You may hear a company or a friend or family member tout one plan as the “best one”. While getting feedback from others can be useful, it is a good idea to be cautious when it comes to choosing a Medigap plan that is being advertised or touted as the best Medicare supplement plan.

Since Medicare Supplement plans are standardized, coverage is the same on all Medigap plans. Additionally, all plan pay claims the same way – through the Medicare “crossover” system. And lastly, you can use any Medicare Supplement plan at any doctor/hospital that takes Medicare – there are no networks. Because these three aspects of the plans are standardized, comparing the plans is a function primarily of the premium rates and the company rating/reputation.

The best Medicare supplement plan is, you could say, the one that has the lowest rates for your age, gender and zip code that is sold in your state. There are typically 30-40 companies that sell Medicare Supplement plans in each state. Not all of the companies that sell the plans offer all 10 of the standardized plans. Some only offer 3-4 of the plans. And, rates can vary widely, so it is crucial to find the best Medicare supplement plan for you by comparing the rates.

Some of the “big name” companies that sell plans in this market are: AARP (United Healthcare), Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, CIGNA, Central States Indemnity, Stonebridge, and Forethought. While not all of these companies offer plans in every state and not all of them are competitively priced in every state, they are all ‘A’ rated or higher (by AM Best) and are generally good options when it comes to finding the best Medicare Supplement plan for you.

The only way to get an unbiased and complete look at the Medigap rates for your area is to use an independent agent (broker), who can provide this information for you so that you can compare in a centralized and unbiased place. If you have any questions about this information or wish to get a comparison to find the best Medicare Supplement plan for you, you can contact us at 877.506.3378 or online at: Send me information on the best Medicare supplement plans for me.

 

Medigap Plans – The Three Most Common Mistakes People Make

medigap plansMedigap plans are plans that fill in the gaps in Medicare Parts A & B. The plans are Federally-standardized and the way they work is relatively straight-forward, especially as compared to other types of insurance. However, it is important to make wise decisions when it comes to choosing and having a Medigap plan. There are three potentially critical mistakes that we often see when it comes to Medigap insurance.

  1. The first mistake, and this one is the most common, is neglecting to get a plan during your “open enrollment” period when you first turn 65 or go on Medicare for the first time. This mistake has its foundations in two common misconceptions – that you can get a plan any year during an annual open enrollment period or that you don’t have to “qualify” medically to get a plan. Both of these are inaccurate.First of all, your open enrollment is the 6 month period that coincides with when you sign up for Medicare Part B or turn 65. There is not an annual open enrollment period for Medigap plans, contrary to popular misconception. The annual open enrollment period that you hear referenced in advertising is the “annual election period” and it is for changing your Medicare Part D plan (or Medicare Advantage plan).The second misconception is that you do not have to qualify for a plan. I’ve heard many people say, especially since “Obamacare” passed, that they did not think that you had to qualify for insurance now. Unfortunately, that is not the case for supplemental types of insurance, like Medigap.So if you do not sign up for a plan when you are first eligible – many people think they are in good health now and will just wait until they “need” a plan – that can be a major mistake in regards to your future eligibility.
  2. The second significant mistake that we see made as far as Medicare supplement insurance is the way Medigap plans are chosen. Many people do not take the time to understand the standardization of plans and simply choose a plan because they have heard of it, it sounds good or a neighbor or family member has it.The reality is that over 90% of people are happy with their Medigap plans. The plans are very easy to use – they are standardized, pay claims automatically through the Medicare “crossover” system, and often cover everything that Medicare does not cover (Plan F). So, what’s not to like?However, just because your friend or neighbor is “happy”, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best plan. In fact, if they’ve had it for more than a year or two, they are probably paying too much for it. Rates often change annually and they can vary widely (have seen them range from $90/month to $300/month for the EXACT same coverage). Insurance companies “bank” on people keeping the same plan with Medigap plans, because of the overwhelming satisfaction people have with how their plan pays claims. However, it pays to understand the standardization both initially and later when you wish to re-evaluate – this way, you can compare based on price and company reputation (the two factors that matter) and make a wise and informed choice.
  3. The last of the three common mistakes people make with Medigap plans is the “set it and forget it” mistake, which is somewhat referenced in the paragraphs above. Medigap plans have rates that are consistently changing. There are new companies that enter the marketplace, market factors cause rate changes, and generally, rates just change over time and as you get older. The last thing you should do is make your one open enrollment decision and then never re-evaluate your plan and other options.
    What we generally recommend is comparing plans every two years. This way, you can find out how your plan compares rate-wise to other, equivalent-coverage options. If you can save money on another “like” plan and are in relatively good health, you can simply change to the new plan with a future effective. Then, once approved, you can cancel your old plan effective that same date. Keeping an eye on your rate to ensure you are not paying to much is definitely a wise thing to do when it comes to Medigap plans.

If you have any questions about this information or anything else regarding Medigap plans, you can contact us online at Secure Medicare Solutions or call us at 877.506.3378.