Household Discounts for Medigap Plans

Medigap companies are always looking for a competitive “edge” in the market place.household discount for medigap plans
One of the most recent trends is the inclusion of the household discount that most companies now offer. Although these discounts range from 5% to 12%, they can have a significant impact on which company is right for you.

The biggest change, in recent months, has been the inclusion of the discount for people who share a household with another adult, regardless of whether that other adult has the same insurance policy. In other words, you can qualify for the discount (with many companies), just based on being married or living with another adult. In year’s past, you would have had to both sign up for the same insurance company/plan. Now, that is not the case with many companies.

Some of the companies that offer some form of household discounts now include Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, Medico and Equitable to name a few. These discounts range from 5% to 12%, depending on the company and where you live.

As you may already know, Medicare Supplement plans are Federally-standardized. So for example, a Plan F with one company is the same as a Plan F with another company. Price and company reputation are the only differentiating factors between companies, so it is important to compare based on premium.

If you have not compared your Medicare Supplement coverage lately, it is a good time to do so. Not only is there the new revamped calculation of the household discount available through many companies, but there are also several newer, very competitively priced companies in the Medicare Supplement market. Several of these are large companies that have “repriced” their plans, while others are well-established companies that have ventured into the large and expanding Medicare market.

If you have questions about this or would like a quick quote via email, you can call us at 877.506.3378 or request information at Medigap quotes.

Medicare Annual Election Period is Almost Here

We are approaching the annual election period for Medicare plans. This period runs from October 15-December 7 this year. Plan changes made during this period will take effect on 1/1/15 and will be in place for the following calendar year of 2015.

Contrary to popular misconception, this period has nothing to do with Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans. It only applies to Medicare Part D and Medicare replacement plans like Medicare Advantage. If you have a Medigap plan, you do not have to do anything to renew your plan – it will continue automatically and is “guaranteed renewable”. This type of plan does not change annually like Medicare Advantage plans do.

However, if you do have a Medigap plan, it may be a good time to review your coverage to ensure that you have the plan that is most advantageous to you. Medigap plans are Federally-standardized, so every company provides the exact same coverage plans. It is highly likely, if you have had your plan for more than a year or two, that you are paying above market price for your Medigap premium. If you want to reevaluate your plan and compare it to what is available in your zip code, you can contact us here to get a comparison via email.

If you are on a Medigap plan with prescription drug coverage (Part D), it is also a good idea to reevaluate your Part D plan. Part D is offered on an annual contract, so these plans do change each year. Sometimes, the changes can be very significant. Also, many times, your prescription medication needs change, so it is a good idea to stay apprised of the options on Part D on an annual or bi-annual basis.

You can do this Part D comparison on Medicare’s website at http://medicare.gov. If you are one of our clients, please contact me directly as we provide this comparison as a free service for you.

If you have questions about this Medicare annual election period, please feel free to contact us at 877.506.3378 or online at Secure Medicare Solutions.

Medigap Pricing Methods – Attained-Age, Issue-Age and Community-Rated

Medigap pricing methods can be categorized in one of three ways (as found on page 17 of the Choosing a Medigap policy booklet) – attained-age rated, issue-age rated, and community-rated. These differences are often discussed by insurance companies and agents, so it is important to understand what the terms mean, and more importantly, what they may mean to your Medigap rates in the future after you choose a plan.

Attained-age Medigap rates are based on your current age (i.e the age you have “attained”) and rates typically would go up as you get older based on your age or when you reach a birthday. Plans that are rated in this way will typically have lower rates initially when you sign up for a plan and will represent some savings (often significant savings) on the front end.

Issue-age Medigap rates are based on your age at the time that the policy is issued. Rates will be lower if you buy when you are younger. Premiums still go up over time, but it is just not based on your age. Instead, premium increases are based on inflation, claims experience and other factors.

Community-rated Medigap rates are based on the “community” (a certain geographic area) and are typically the same for everyone within that “community”, regardless of age. Just like issue-age rated plans, premiums still go up over time, just not based on your age. Instead, they go up for inflation and claims experience of everyone within that “community”.

So, what do Medigap pricing methods mean to you? First of all, a few facts about the different rating methodologies and things to keep in mind.

  • All Medigap rates are going to go up periodically. Most (regardless of Medigap pricing method) go up each year.
  • In some states, the vast majority of plans are attained-age rated, with only 1-2 exceptions to that.
  • In other states (for example, Georgia Medigap plans), the state restricts the companies to offer plans rates only with certain rating methodologies (i.e. no attained age in GA).
  • It is important to also consider the savings on attained-age plans. For example, if you can save $1000+ a year for the first 10 years of an attained-age plan, even if the rate eventually surpasses an issue-age plan, your already-pocketed savings on the front end are so significant, that may not matter.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, keep in mind that you can always change Medigap plans at any time and for any reason. In some states (for example: CA, OR, NY), this is a “guaranteed issue” right with no underwriting. In other states, you may have to answer general medical questions to be eligible to change. But in most cases, you can change plans to a lower-priced plan if your rate has gone up significantly.

Overall, it is advisable to have the assistance of an independent broker who can give you information about both current rates and typical future rates (i.e. history of rate stability) so you can make an informed choice on which company/plan is going to be best for you, both in the short term and into the future.

If you have questions about this information or Medigap pricing methods in general, you can contact 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.

 

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.

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.