How to Make the Right Medigap Choice

logo-collage-smallChoosing the right Medigap plan can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process if you allow it to be. While there is a lot of information out there and a lot of people and companies vying for your “attention”, choosing a Medigap policy does not have to be difficult. Follow this three-step guide to narrowing the choices, reducing the clutter and selecting the plan that is right for you.

  1. Understand the plans. First of all, you must have an understanding of the plans – what they cover, how they work and what is important in the decision-making process. The first thing to know is that the plans are Federally-standardized. That is, all companies provide the same coverage plans – a Plan F with one company is the same as a Plan F with another company. Additionally, the plans all work the same way. Claims are automated (paid electronically without involvement from the patient), and they are done through the Medicare “crossover” system. Lastly, all plans can be used at any doctor or hospital that takes Medicare, so that means that you will still be able to use it if you use services from Internationalherniacare, in other words, as long as a physician takes your primary coverage (Medicare), they will take your Medigap plan regardless of what Medigap company sold you the plan.In summary, and the main thing to understand when it comes to Medigap plans, is that there are no differences to compare as far as coverage, reliability, how the plan works, where you can use it, etc. The two factors to compare when it comes to Medigap are price (first and foremost) and company rating/reputation. The Federal standardization of plans has made the other variables non-existent or irrelevant.
  2. Compare the rates. Once you understand “what” to compare, it is time to actual do the comparing. There are a couple of ways to do this. The “old-fashioned” way is to get the phone numbers of all companies offering Medigap plans in your area and call them and ask their rates. Some companies will give you this information over the phone; some will require that an agent come to your house to meet with you prior to giving you the information. For most people, this way of doing it is not appealing. However, it is an option.The other way of going about it – which I believe most people would find preferable – is to use an independent agent, or broker, to compare the plans. An independent agent does not work specifically for one particular insurance company, so they are not going to try to “sell” you on their company. Instead, they can give you unbiased information of what company’s offer competitively priced plans in your area. Additionally, they can provide other information such as company rating, past rate stability and reputations, which may help you narrow down the choices and make an informed decision.Keep in mind that the main thing to compare when it comes to Medigap (Medicare Supplement) plans is the rates, as plan coverage is completely standardized by the Federal government. A good independent agent can provide a full breakdown of the companies that offer companies in your zip code, as well as what the rates would be for someone at your age.
  3. Choose wisely. Once you have the information that pertains to premium rates and company rating/reputation, you can easily narrow the choices to which reputable companies are competitively priced for your area. While many people know about Plan F, which is the most common plan, it is not always the most wise choice. It is the most comprehensive but also the most expensive. Plan G is an alternative that typically would provide a savings when compared to Plan F – under Plan G, you have to pay a $147/year deductible but that’s the only difference between ‘F’ and ‘G’ and the premium savings is often $300+/year resulting in a significant net savings.Once you choose a plan, it is easy to enroll, particularly if you are in an “open enrollment” period (i.e. turning 65 or just going on Medicare). Simply complete an application, which the independent agent can facilitate either online or by phone, then the application will be processed by the insurance company. You’ll receive an insurance card and policy in the mail.
    While signing up for a Medigap plan is an overwhelming charge for many people, it does not have to be. The standardization of Medigap plans and the proliferation of information available online has made comparing and choosing a Medigap plan much easier than choosing most other types of insurance.If you would like a listing of the companies/rates in your area or have other questions, you can contact us online or call 877.506.3378.

Medigap Plans – Three Things Most People Do Not Know

Medigap plans can be intimidating to many people – understanding and thinking about insurance is not at the top of most people’s to-do list, sometimes it´s to talk to a TypeaThought.com – online psychologist. The plans, however, are really not as complex and confusing as many people make them. Also, they are not nearly as complex as many other types of insurance. Due to the standardization of plans, the fact that the coverage is supplemental and pretty straight-forward, and the lack of network considerations, the plans can be very easy to understand.

There are, however, a few misconceptions and myths that people seem to have about Medigap plans on an ongoing basis. The top three, that I have seen in my experience of talking to hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries a week, are:

  1. Medigap plans are different from Medicare Advantage plans. And, Medicare Advantage plans do not supplement Medicare.
    Medigap plans are designed to work with and “supplement” Medicare. They fill in the gaps in the Medicare program – Parts A & B. Medicare Advantage, on the other hand, are plans that replace the Federal Medicare program, providing all of the benefits through a privatized system of co-pays and deductibles. There are many differences between Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans, including coverage, doctor accessibility, plan portability, freedom to change plans later, etc. Although many people lump all plans in together, these two types of plans are very different.
  2. Medigap insurance does not have an annual enrollment period.
    Another difference not mentioned above is that Medigap plans do not have an annual enrollment period, contrary to popular belief. The end of year enrollment period is actually for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D (Rx coverage) plans. It does not apply at all to Medigap plans, which do not have an enrollment period. You can compare, change, enroll in, or disenroll from a Medigap plan at any time of the year.
  3. Medigap is the same, virtually, nationwide and the plans are portable. Likewise, there are no networks of doctors/hospitals that you must stay within.
    Medigap plan benefits are nationally standardized, and with the exception of a couple of states that vary from this (i.e. Wisconsin), the plans are the same in all 50 states. Also, if you move to a new state, you do not need to change Medigap plans – the plans can be used anywhere nationwide that takes Medicare. There are no regional-based networks or doctor use restrictions (i.e. referrals required, etc).

Overall, there are many misunderstandings about all types of insurance, including Medigap insurance. But Medigap plans are relatively simple and can be understood with some simple research and reading. If you have questions about Medigap plans or anything else as it relates to Medicare, please call us at 877.506.3378. Or, you can contact us online at Medicare-Supplement.US.

The “Wrong” Ways to Change Your Medicare Plan

Changing your Medicare coverage is often a good idea, particularly if you have had the same plan for several years. Just like any type of insurance, rates go up over time, and usually, you can save a few bucks for equal coverage. Whenever you can, since plans are standardized, it is advisable to do so. Changing plans is very easy to do. That said, there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to do it.

Whether my agency helps you or not, you should know the RIGHT way to change plans to prevent being in one of the situations we run across so often. So, here are the WRONG ways to change your insurance plan:

  1. Cancel your current coverage once you apply for a new plan. When you apply for a new plan, NEVER cancel your old plan until your new plan is approved. I typically would recommend waiting until you receive your policy and new insurance card in hand before ever cancelling your old coverage, regardless of what type of plan it is. Incidentally, this means that if you are moving from an Advantage plan to an actual supplement plan, you have to start very early in the enrollment period as it takes most companies several weeks to approve a Medigap application.
  2. Talk to an insurance agent, instead of an insurance broker, and get the agent’s opinion. Insurance agents work for a company and sell plans from that one company. Insurance brokers can help you compare all of the available plans so you can make an informed, unbiased choice. Whatever you do, don’t simply take the word of someone who only has one option to sell you. They are going to, obviously, promote their own product over others.
  3. Leave a Medigap plan without understanding the consequences. This particularly refers to going from a Medigap plan to a Medicare Advantage plan. Doing so is very risky business, particularly if you have poor health. What can happen is that you can get “stuck” on an Advantage plan. Since you have to qualify medically for a Medigap plan, you may not be able to get back to an actual supplement plan.
  4. Put anything untrue on the application. Putting false information on a Medicare supplement plan application is, simply put, a bad idea, not to mention exposes you to some pretty serious risks (policy recission, financial penalties, etc.). Tell the truth.

If you want to make an insurance transition as smooth as possible, you must make any changes the “right” way to avoid making a mistake that could leave you without coverage or with less comprehensive coverage. If you have questions about this, you can get Medicare Supplement quotes from us online or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Parts and Plans – It’s That Time of Year Again

As we approach the annual Medicare open enrollment period, it is a good time to review the difference between the “parts” of Medicare and the Medicare supplement “plans”. Because both use letters to differentiate themselves, this can be a frequent and frustrating source of confusion for Medicare beneficiaries. What it causes is people to say one thing and mean another, which can lead to getting the wrong or invalid information.

First of all, the “parts” of Medicare are letters ‘A’ through ‘D’. These are offered through the Federal Government’s Medicare program. “Original” Medicare is Parts A & B, and you get these when you turn 65 (or are on disability for 24 months). That is, unless you opt out of Medicare because you are still working, have other coverage, etc. Medicare Part C is Medicare Advantage plans. These plans take the place of Medicare A & B, and all of your benefits are provided through the private company. In essence, it’s a private version of Medicare. Medicare Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription drugs. These plans are sold through private insurance companies as well, just like Part D. They are approved by and administered by Medicare (CMS).

Now, the “plans” that are associated with Medicare are the Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, plans. These plans range from ‘A’ to ‘N’, and they are all named by letters. In other words, Part D is different from Plan D. The two should not, and cannot, be confused. Medigap plans are Federally-standardized. That is, a Plan F, for example, (which is the most common plan) is the same with one company as it is with another. There are literally no differences in coverage, where you can use the plan, how they pay claims, etc. All Medigap plans are standardized.

Medicare PART D (and Medicare Advantage) have this upcoming annual enrollment period. It begins on October 15, 2011 this year. Medigap PLANS, however, do NOT have an annual enrollment period. You can enroll, disenroll or change Medigap plans at any time. This is another thing that leads to the confusion between “parts” and “plans”.

Overall, it is important to understand the difference between the two, so that you can sign up for the right thing at the right time. If you want more information about the differences in the two or the differences in the various Medigap plan options for your area, please contact us at Medicare-Supplement.US or at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Supplement Quotes Online – How To Find Them

Most Medicare Supplement companies do not allow their rates to be published online for the general public. If you have been searching for rates, you have probably found this to be the case. That said, there are very easy ways to get Medicare Supplement quotes online without having to speak to an agent or the company on the phone or meet someone in person.

Below, we’ve listed step-by-step instructions for obtaining Medicare Supplement quotes online and comparing the plans:

  1. First and foremost, have some knowledge about what you’re looking for. Many people mistakenly refer to all types of plans as “Medicare Supplements”. Your employer group coverage is NOT a Medicare Supplement. Medicare Advantage plans, which replace Medicare instead of supplementing it, are NOT Medicare Supplements. Medicare Supplements are Federally-standardized and must be named by the letters that the Government has mandated. This means that all plans will be one of the standardized plans – A through N – that are found on the Medigap coverage chart.
  2. While most companies don’t publish their rates online, they employ independent agents who do. Independent agents do not cost anything for you to use. What they do is compile all quotes for your area and situation into one place, so that you can easily compare among multiple choices. You should find an agency that will send you the rate quote comparison by email so you don’t have to call the companies individually. Most independent agencies will do this. No matter what you sign up for or who you sign up with, we certainly recommend using an independent agent/agency for the information and service they provide.
  3. Once you receive a chart that shows the quotes from a handful of companies, you want to make sure you are comparing them using the correct criteria. While many people will ask how a company pays, if it pays on time, or if doctors accept the plan – all of these are factors which do not play into a decision about Medicare Supplement plans. With the standardization of plans, you can go to any doctor/hospital nationwide that takes Medicare, regardless of the plan that you have. Also, the companies pay claims through the Medicare “crossover” system so there is really no variation in how/when one companies versus another.

All in all, choosing a Medigap policy does not have to be all that difficult to do. You can certainly get Medigap quotes online and compare plans to make an informed, educated decision. If you have questions, visit us online or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medigap Plan N – No Longer Guaranteed Issue, But Still a Smart Choice

Medigap Plan N has only been out for a little less than a year – it came out June 1, 2010. During a good part of the time since then, it was offered on a “guaranteed issue” basis by at least one insurer (Mutual of Omaha). Now, that company is no longer offering “guaranteed issue” Plan N; however, there is still limited underwriting which makes it a good choice for those who have some pre-existing conditions or health problems.

Even notwithstanding your health, Medicare Supplement Plan N can be a very good choice for your Medigap coverage. Premiums are usually 15-25% lower than Plan F premiums. The differences in the two plans are significant; however, they may not offset the premium savings that you cna gain with a Plan N.

Plan differences between the F and N plans are:

  • Coverage of the Medicare Part B deductible ($162/year)
  • The co-pays that Plan N has – $20 at the doctor’s office, $50 at the emergency room
  • Coverage of the Part B excess charges – this rarely happens but is when a doctor charges more than the Medicare-approved amount

Other than these three benefit differences, the two plans (F and N) are identical. With that in mind, you can easily do a comparison to see which one makes the most sense for you.

If you are in good health and/or are on a fixed income, you may find that Plan N just makes sense. The coverage is still good, and it still works just like any other Medigap plan. You can go to any doctor or hospital that takes Medicare, nationwide. There are no network restrictions. Additionally, benefits are Federally-standardized and do not change at all on an annual basis.

When it comes down to comparing plan options, the main thing to look at is which plan fits your unique health and financial needs. From there, it is easy to compare “apples to apples” and see which company offers the least expensive plan for the plan option that you are looking for. To get more information or Medigap Plan N quotes, please contact us on our website.

Medicare Supplemental Guide – How To Choose a Plan That is Right for You

Choosing a Medicare Supplemental plan is extremely important to your financial well-being if you are over 65 and/or on Medicare. There are literally hundreds of options available to you, so you must take an inventory of what you need, compare it against what is available and make a sound decision that will be beneficial to you.

The very first step in this process is to get Medicare supplemental quotes from a reputable source like an independent brokerage. This way, you can have all of the information in a centralized place for easy comparison.

The second step that you should follow when comparing supplemental options is to understand the plan differences. Medicare Supplement plans are Federally-standardized. This means that all companies are required to offer the exact same coverage plans, which makes actually comparing the plans relatively easy to do. A Plan F, for example, which is the most common and comprehensive plan, covers everything that Medicare doesn’t cover at the doctor and hospital so that you don’t have any out of pocket costs. So, once you have your quotes, it is easy to compare among plans.

You may find that a lower-tier plan makes more sense for you. After all, the Plan F is the most comprehensive, but it is also the most expensive. Lower-tier plans, such as Plans G and N, often make a lot of sense, particularly if you are in good health or on a fixed income. These plans can provide great premiums savings that offset the small out of pocket costs that come with this slightly lower level of coverage.

The last step in this process is to look at companies, based on price. Since the coverage is the same, you must use price as a primary comparison tool. There is no sense in paying more for the same thing, unless you just have money to burn or don’t mind doing so. The way to go, when it comes to Medicare Supplement insurance, is to choose the option that is the lowest premium for the plan that you want.

To get a Medicare supplement comparison or get quotes on Medicare supplements, please contact us on our website.

Choosing a Medigap Policy – How and When to Do It

Choosing a Medigap policy is an important part of your transition to Medicare if you are turning 65 or going on Medicare. There are literally hundreds of options available in each state and county, and you, no doubt, will get overwhelmed with a deluge of information when you are going on Medicare. It is easy to let this information overwhelm you to the point of frustration. However, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Put simply, choosing a Medigap policy is actually very easy to do. Follow the guidelines below to choose the Medigap policy that is right for you:

  1. First of all, select a plan during your open enrollment or guaranteed issue period. Everyone has a 6-month open enrollment window when they turn 65 or enroll in Medicare Part B. During this time period, there are no health questions asked on any company or plan – you simply choose a plan and enroll. This is the ideal time to enroll in a plan because you cannot be turned down for coverage or made to pay a higher premium because of some pre-existing condition.
  2. Choose a plan by comparing options using an independent agent. It is to your advantage to use an independent agent when comparing and choosing a plan. Independent agents have access to plan quotes for all of the plans offered in your area and can help you compare in an unbiased way. They also have specialized knowledge of company practices, rate increase histories, and customer service reputations. You are paying for agents anyway (commissions are built into premiums) and it doesn’t cost you any extra, so you should certainly have one.
  3. Make a decision based on two factors – price and company reputation. No matter what anyone else tells you or what you see on a television commercial, your decision should, quite simply, come down to two factors and two factors only – price and company reputation. Since plans are standardized, you can easily compare “apples to apples” to choose a plan that is most competitive on price and is from a highly rated company.

Choosing a Medigap policy can be overwhelming and time-consuming. However, it doesn’t have to be that hard. Plans are Federally-standardized and you are given a set time to enroll in the plan of your choice, so it is easy to know when and how to choose a plan. By simply following the three guidelines listed above, you can choose the plan that is right for you.

For additional guidance, you can contact us on our website, Medicare Supplement or see Medicare’s choosing a Medigap policy guidebook: http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/02110.pdf.