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.

 

Medicare Supplement Plan G – A Simple Explanation of Why It Is a Good Deal

Medigap Plan G can be a viable alternative to the most common Medigap plan, Plan F. medigap plan gWhile many people know about Medigap Plan F and its advantages, Plan G is often a better “deal” and is worth examining.

First of all, let’s look at how Medicare Supplement Plan G differs from Plan F. As you may or may not already know, Plan F is, in addition to being the most common Medigap plan, the most comprehensive plan. It pays everything that Medicare does not pay on Medicare-covered services and procedures. With Plan F, you have no out of pocket costs. Many people choose that route for the mere simplicity of not having out of pocket costs or receiving bills for medical care. However, the only difference in Plans G and F is the coverage of the Medicare Part B deductible, which Plan G does not cover. For 2014, that deductible is $147/year.

Since the deductible that Medicare Supplement Plan G does not cover is only $147/year, and that is the only difference in the two plans, it is easy to compare the two plans (F and G) on the basis of cost. The deductible amounts to a $12.25/month difference. So if the premium savings is greater than $12.25/month, then Medicare Supplement Plan G would represent an annual savings. With many companies, the premium difference is $15-25/month, which would result in an annual savings.

That is just the straight-forward dollar amount savings, but there are other advantages to ‘G’ that should be understood. First and foremost, Plan G is historically more rate-stable over time than Plan F is. The reason for this can be a little complex, but here is an explanation of it. Plan F is offered on a “guaranteed issue” basis in certain situations, such as losing employer coverage or losing Medicare Advantage coverage. In other words, if you have pre-existing conditions, you may be able to get a Plan F but not a Plan G if you fall into one of those “guaranteed issue” situations. Over time, this leads to the people on Plan F being (on average) less healthy than the people on Plan G. This leads to higher claims ratios on ‘F’ and larger rate increases.

In an example, a well-known, ‘A+’ rated insurance company recently had a rate increase in North Carolina of 8% on Plan F and 5% on Medicare Supplement Plan G. This mirrors similar results nationwide and symbolizes why ‘G’ can be a better choice. It represents, not only initial premium savings in many cases, but also greater long-term rate stability.

A further advantage of ‘G’ comes if you are comparing plans mid-year and are already on a Medicare Supplement plan. The Medicare Part B deductible does not reset if you change plans. It is tracked by Medicare on an annual basis. So if you have a Plan F and you have been to the doctor and met your deductible (your plan would have paid it if you have Plan F), and you decide to switch to a Medicare Supplement Plan G, you would not have to meet the deductible again. So the premium savings the rest of the year would be realized in net savings to you.

While many people do not take the time to understand the plans or the various options that are available on the different Medigap plans, it can definitely make sense to do so and result in money in your pocket. If you have questions about this or want to compare Medicare Supplement Plan G rates for your age and zip code, you can contact us online at Secure Medicare Solutions or call us at 877.506.3378.

How Does PPACA (“Obamacare”) Affect Medicare Supplements?

How does PPACA, or “Obamacare”, affect Medicare supplement insurance. This is a good, and common, question. It’s one that we get asked frequently since the bill was passed into law a couple of years ago. The short answer is that PPACA does not directly impact Medicare Supplement insurance in any way.

The bill does not apply to supplemental, or secondary, policies in the same way that it applies to primary insurance or “under-65” insurance. So, for people on Medicare, there is minimal impact overall and no impact to their Medicare supplement coverage. Medigap plans (another name for Medicare Supplements) are still standardized into the ten plans that were established in June 2010. These plans are set forth by the government – private companies that offer Medigap plans must go by these coverage outlines, but they can set their prices however they want.

Although Medigap plans are not directly affected, the PPACA does affect Medicare in some ways, primarily in the areas of Medicare Advantage (the private plans that replace Medicare) and Medicare Part D (Rx coverage for people on Medicare). For Medicare Advantage plans, the bill took some money away from the plans in the form of reimbursement rates. This is where part of the money to pay for the under-65 portion of the plan comes from. Medicare reimburses the private Medicare Advantage companies a certain amount per person for those who elect Medicare Advantage instead of Medicare itself. Decreasing this amount will obviously decrease the level of coverage (or added benefits) that these plans can offer.

For Part D, the biggest change is the reduction and eventual elimination of the Part D donut hole. This is the portion of Part D coverage during which the insured must pay the largest portion of their cost. In the past, the individual was responsible for paying the full retail costs of medications during this coverage “gap”. Because of the PPACA, this gap is being reduced each year up until 2020, at which time consumers will pay 25% of the retail costs of medications during the coverage gap (instead of the 100% that they were responsible for in 2010 before the bill).

For Medicare Supplements, many people believe “Obamacare” will have a “trickle-down” effect on Medigap insurance companies, particularly those who also are involved in the under-65 insurance market. There have been several companies that have pulled out, or reduced, their service areas for under-65 insurance, and some feel that this will affect their profit needs/motives in the Medicare supplement market.

If you have questions about this information or wish to discuss this further, you can contact me at 877.506.3378 or online at Secure Medicare Solutions.

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.

 

Guardian Healthcare Medicare Advantage Bankruptcy – What To Do About It?

Recently, the Medicare Advantage company, Guardian Healthcare, filed for bankruptcy. Because Guardian is, as of 2010, one of the top three Medicare Advantage plans in SC, this filing affects many individuals in the state who have this Guardian Medicare Advantage plan, as well as providers and agents who are owed money by the company.

Regarding the Guardian Healthcare members, the most important thing to note is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has declared a special election period for many affected members of this health plan in most counties in the state. For those people who have been granted this “SEP”, they will be (or have recently been), notified by a letter from Medicare. Make sure you hold on to this letter. This “SEP” allows those who have Guardian Healthcare’s plan the opportunity to chose either an actual Medicare Supplement plan (also called Medigap) or another plan.

Although health care reform and other changes have greatly affected the number and quality of Advantage plans that are available, there are still a few Medicare Advantage plan options in the state (3 companies that are operating Advantage plans in the whole state). However, as an independent agency, our recommendation would be to use this one-time special enrollment period to choose a Medigap plan. The advantages of a Medigap plan (vs. an Advantage plan) are listed below:

  • First of all, Medicare Supplement plans don’t change each year, like Advantage plans do. The plans are Federally-standardized, so each company offers the same outline of coverage for their plans – the only variation is price and company reputation.
  • Secondly, Medigap plans, unlike all Advantage plans (as of 1/1/2011), do NOT have networks. Someone who has a Medigap plan can go to any doctor or hospital nationwide that takes Medicare.
  • Lastly, Medicare Supplement plans offer a “Guaranteed Issue” into a Medicare Supplement when you are involuntarily losing your Medicare Advantage plan (i.e. Guardian Healthcare). If you have any pending health issues or history of medications or health problems, you have this one-time opportunity to qualify for a Medicare Supplement without medical underwriting or pre-existing condition restrictions.

Overall, the bankruptcy of Guardian Healthcare has been, and will continue to be, a problem for many affected members, providers, and other affected groups. However, for members, because Medicare has granted this SEP, which allows you to choose a new plan without penalty or underwriting, you can take advantage of this one-time opportunity to either select the more comprehensive coverage of a Medicare Supplement plan or find a new Advantage plan.

To get more information about either, please visit South Carolina Medicare Supplements or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Supplement Insurance – Five Things 90% of Seniors Going on Medicare Don’t Know

Medicare Supplement insurance is something that everyone that goes on Medicare has to understand. Even if you have employer insurance or are electing to have only Medicare, you still must understand these supplements and the ramifications of having/not having one in order to make an informed decision on whether to get one, and if you are getting one, exactly which one to get. When looking at these supplemental plans, there are a few things to keep in mind that, from our thousands of conversations with individuals going on Medicare, we’ve realized that many seniors going on Medicare simply do not know. For your reference, we’ve listed a few of those things below:

  1. Medicare Supplement plans do not cover prescription drugs.
    Prescription drugs are covered under Medicare Part D NOT Medicare Supplement plans. Since supplemental plans are standardized (see #4 below), NO plans can offer drug coverage as a benefit to their supplemental plan.
  2. Medicare Advantage plans are NOT Medicare Supplement plans. The two are completely different.
    Many seniors make the small terminology mistake of calling Advantage plans “supplement” plans. This is simply not true. Advantage plans do not supplement Medicare; on the contrary, they replace Medicare and ALL benefits are provided through the private company. With a true supplement plan, you still have Medicare A & B, you just have a supplement to fill in some, or all, of the ‘gaps’ in Medicare.
  3. Medicare Part D (Rx coverage) has a “donut hole”. This applies to all plans and there is no way to avoid it completely.
    The Medicare Part D “donut hole” is one of the most troublesome (to many people) parts of Medicare, and unfortunately, there are no ways to avoid it completely. The best way to reduce your prescription drug costs are to ensure that you are on a Part D plan that most thoroughly covers your medications and re-evaluate this on an annual or bi-annual basis.
  4. Medicare Supplements are Federally-standardized and they are portable across state lines.
    All companies must offer the exact same standardized Medicare Supplement plans. There is no variation among these plans. A Plan ‘F’ with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another. Also, all Medicare Supplements can be used anywhere in the U.S. – there are no restrictions or networks. As long as a doctor/hospital takes your primary coverage (Medicare), they will take your supplemental coverage.
  5. Medicare Supplement rates change over time. All plans go up in rate and there is no way to avoid that entirely.
    Regardless of what a company or agent may tell you, all Medicare Supplement plans do go up over time. There is simply no way to avoid this. They may go up at different time periods or using different methodology for increases, but overall, all companies are going to go up. And the best counsel is to have a plan that is the lowest cost possible when signing up (since plans are standardized).

Secure Medicare Solutions is a leading, independent brokerage that works exclusively with Medicare insurance. You can get a Medicare Supplement quote by visiting Medigap Quotes or Medicare Supplement Quotes. You can also reach us by phone, if you prefer, at 877.506.3378.