Switching Medicare Supplements – Can You Do It Mid-Year and Other Important Facts

Switching Medicare Supplement plans can be a good idea. Just like any type of insurance, rates are going to go up over time, and if you have had your Medicare Supplement plan for more than a year or two, chances are good that you can switch to another company and reduce your costs for equal coverage. So, what do you need to know about switching plans?

  1. First and foremost, know that you can switch plans mid-year, or any time really. There are no enrollment periods for Medicare Supplement plans – also called Medigap. This is not to be confused with Medicare Advantage plans, which are privatized plans that take the place of Medicare, or Medicare Part D, which is the Rx coverage that goes with Medicare. On Medicare Supplements, you can change plans at any time and it is very easy to do, particularly if you are in relatively good health.
  2. When you change plans, know that the coverage is standardized. All companies go by the standardized plans chart – Medigap chart. So, a Plan F with one company is the same as a Plan F with another. This makes comparing options easy to do – it is function of price and company rating/reputation.
  3. Whenever possible, use an independent agency to make your comparisons and provide you with additional information that you cannot get from the companies themselves. An independent agency has no significant incentive to “push” you go to with one company over another. You can compare plans in an unbiased way and get additional information, such as a long-term stability, company ratings, underwriting specifics, etc. So, whether it is us (Medicare-Supplement.us) or someone else, using an independent agency is always a good idea.
  4. Make sure you do not cancel your current plan until your new one is approved. Sure, this is pretty much common sense, but we see it done incorrectly every day. Here is the process for changing Medicare Supplement plans:
    • Compare plans
    • Choose a plan
    • Apply for the new plan with a future effective date (usually a month or so in advance)
    • Once the new plan is approved, cancel the “old” plan, effective that same future date

    This ensures that there is no gap or overlap in coverage.

Overall, changing Medicare Supplement plans can seem intimidating or overwhelming to many. This is what causes many people to stay on their overpriced plans and pay the “extra” amount those plans charge for the same coverage. In reality, it is advisable to compare plans on an annual or bi-annual basis, and if a savings is found, to easily make one and keep your medical costs as low as possible while maintaining the same level of coverage.

Garrett Ball is the Owner and President of Secure Medicare Solutions, Inc., which administers Medicare-Supplement.US. SMS is a leading, independent Medicare insurance brokerage, specializing in Medicare Supplement insurance. For more information or to get a Medigap comparison, you can visit us online.

Medigap Rates – Who Determines Them and Why Do They Go Up?

Medigap rates change over time. That is, quite simply, a fact. Some companies will be more stable than others – some plans are more stable than others. But overall, all rates, regardless of the company, plan or where you live will change. The important thing is understanding how those rate changes work, when they occur and why they occur. This allows you to minimize the effect rate increases have on your pocketbook and know when to make changes to your plan if necessary.

First of all, rate increases are always approved by the state departments of insurance. Your state is responsible for screening both the increase itself, as well as the size and administration of that increase (i.e. when it occurs). You cannot be singled out for an increase. One of the most common questions that we receive is… “I have not been to the doctor’s office but once all year, so why is my rate going up?” Unfortunately, that is not the way insurance works. Your rate goes up based on the claims experiences of everyone who has that company in your geographical area (usually in your state). So, your rate, when it goes up (not IF, but WHEN) will go up based on a percentage. For example, if your Plan F rate is $100 and the company has a 6% increase on Plan F rates, your new rate will be $106. The company is required to give you advance notice of any rate changes – 30 days in most states.

There are many things that differentiate the increases that companies will have. Besides geographical and claims experience factors, there is also the factor of which plan you have. In other words, most companies have different size increases on different plans. In general, a plan that is not Federally-required to be offered on a “guaranteed issue” basis in certain situations will be more stable over time. The plans that are required to be offered in “guaranteed issue” situations (i.e. losing employer coverage or Advantage plan coverage) are A, B, C, F, K and L. The other four plans would be, historically speaking, more stable over time due to NOT having to be offered in “guaranteed issue” situations.

Now, when your rate is going to go up, you do have some recourse, particularly if you are in relatively good health and are getting a significant increase. There are NO enrollment periods for Medigap plans (When is the Medigap enrollment period?) so you can change plans any time that your rate goes up. It is always advisable to re-evaluate your rates against those of other plan options when your rate goes up.

If you have questions about this or would like a rate quote comparison for the plans available for your age and zip code, please call us at 877.506.3378 or contact us on our website at Medigap quotes from Medicare-Supplement.US.

Avoiding a Lapse in Coverage When Changing Medigap Plans

You can change Medigap plans at any time of the year, contrary to popular belief. Many people believe, incorrectly, that you can only change during the annual enrollment period, which is at the end of year. In reality, that time period only applies to Part D drug plans and Medicare replacement plans, like Medicare Advantage. With Medigap plans (Medicare Supplements), you can change plans at any time of the year.

Not only can you change plans at any time, it is highly advisable to do so, if you can save money by doing so. Rates for Medigap plans go up often, and to ensure you have the best deal available, you should consider changing any time your rate goes up (Help! My Medigap Rates Went Up).

When you do so, it is important to understand exactly how to do it. The most important thing is what we are going to cover here – how to change plans without experiencing a lapse in coverage or gap between plans. This is very easy to do and is nothing to be concerned about – certainly nothing that should keep you from making a necessary change.

  • First of all, when you change plan, you should complete a new application for the new company. You should apply for a future effective date. To be safe, I would always recommend an effective date at least two weeks in advance of the current date – 3-4 weeks is even better. It can take that long for a Medicare Supplement plan to get approved.
  • When you apply, you will list this future effective date. Then, the new policy will get approved. It is imperative that you do NOT cancel your current plan just because you applied for the new one. You could be turned down for coverage, experience some delay or numerous other things. You do not want to be without coverage and this will prevent that from happening. Do NOT cancel your “old” policy until you have the new policy or card in hand or confirmation from you agent that it has been approved.
  • Once the new plan is approved, and you have some confirmation of this, then you can cancel the old plan effective the same date that the new policy starts. Make sure you do not leave any overlap days in there, or else you will end up paying for two plans for those days. The policies should start/stop on the same date.

Changing plans does not have to be an intimidating process, although it is for many people. With a good agent and a basic understanding of the process, changing plans and saving money off of your premium is very easy to do.

If you want more information or want to find out if you can save money on your Medigap plan, call us at 877.506.3378 or visit our website linked above.

Medicare Supplements – What Happens to Your Plan When You Move?

Medicare Supplements are Federally-standardized – that is, they are the same in each state (with a couple of exceptions). One of the most commonly-asked questions about Medicare Supplement plans is just what happens to the plans when you move. There are two different “sub-areas” within this question that determine the answer to the larger question of what happens to your Medigap plan when you move. The “sub-areas” are: in state moves (moves to another part of your current state) or out of state moves (moves from one state to another). We will touch on both of those situations below.

In-State Moves

Moving in-state is very straight-forward with Medicare Supplement plans. First and foremost, you do NOT have to change your Medicare Supplement when you move to another part of your state if you do not wish to do so. Companies are licensed by the state departments of insurance to do business statewide, so if a company that insures you currently operates where you live now, nothing will be different about that when you move to a different part of the same state. So, put simply, nothing happens to your Medicare supplement coverage when you move to a different part of the state.

However, it is important to understand that rates are always based on your zip code of residence. So when you move, it is possible that you will move to a less (or more) expensive area, in which instance your rates will adjust to the prevailing rates of your new zip code.

Also, with this in mind, one consideration you should remember is that you can re-evaluate your plan options based on your new zip code, and it is possible that there is another company/plan that has lower rates for your new zip code, allowing you to save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in premiums for the same coverage. To find out quickly, visit Medicare Supplement rates by zip code.

Out of State Moves

Although out of state moves may seem more complex, in reality, they are not for the purposes of Medicare Supplement plans. Just like what is detailed above, when you move to a new state, you do NOT have to change Medicare Supplement plans. The plan are national plans and they are fully portable. If you travel, your coverage is the same at any doctor/hospital that takes Medicare nationwide, whether you are moving or just traveling temporarily.

Now, you must change your address with the insurance company in all cases. This, as mentioned above, may have an impact on your premium. However, you can keep the same plan and there are no “Guaranteed issue” provisions allowing you to change without medical underwriting. If you do elect to change, you do have to go through medical underwriting.

However, a change may be worth it, as depending on where you move from/to, rates can vary by as much as $100-200/month in different states – even for the exact same coverage. So it is definitely worth it, when you move, to evaluate the availability of different plan options.

If you want this information delivered by email, please fill out a request on our website at Medicare Supplement rates by email or call us at 877.506.3378.

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period Myth

Each year the myth grows stronger – the myth about Medicare’s annual enrollment period applying to Medicare Supplement plans. Most people, for one of several reasons that we will discuss later, believe that you can only change Medicare Supplement plans at a certain time of the year. Moreover, most believe that, during this time period, you can change without medical underwriting of any kind (i.e. no health questions). We intend to do our part, however small, to eliminate this incorrect thinking.

Put simply, you can change Medicare Supplement plans at any time of the year. There are no annual enrollment period that you must adhere to. However, when you do change, no matter what time of year it is, you do have to “qualify” medically in most situations. The exceptions to this are if you turning 65 or just going on Medicare, losing some other type of coverage, or moving out of your plan’s service area.

There are several significant factors that exacerbate this myth. The first and foremost factor is that there IS an annual enrollment period for some Medicare plans, including the Part D plans that are often paired with Medicare Supplement coverage. Also, Medicare replacement plans called Medicare Advantage plans have this same annual enrollment period. For these plans, you can only change, cancel or enroll in a plan during the AEP (Annual Election Period), which runs October 15 to December 7 each year.

The other related factor that causes this misconception is the glut of advertising associated with the aforementioned plans. These plans advertise leading up to and during the annual enrollment period, and this period is often referred to as the Medicare enrollment period. This leads many people to the conclusion that you can only change all types of Medicare coverage during this period.

Now, you certainly CAN change your Medicare Supplement during this end of year time period, but that is not the NOLY time that you can change your plan. It may, however, be a convenient time to re-evaluate your options since many people are re-evaluating their Part D Rx plans at this same time.

Comparing Medicare supplement plans is very easy to do. Since the plans are standardized and there are no restrictions on when you sign up for a plan, you can do this all online and at any time. If you want to compare your supplement plan options, give us a call at 877.506.3378 or contact us online at Medicare-Supplement.US.

Medigap Comparison – Three Steps to Getting the Plan You Want

Comparing Medigap plans has gotten increasingly easier with recent advances in technology. The old methodology was contacting the individual companies by phone or otherwise to get quotes, comparisons, etc. However, that has now changed, and comparing the plan online, in an easy, hassle-free way is easier than ever. Here are the steps that you should follow to compare Medigap plans and find the plan you want for a price you can afford:

  1. First and foremost, you must have a basic understanding of how the Medigap plans work. You can obtain the booklet Medicare publishes called “Choosing a Medigap Policy” in a hard copy from a local SS office, from Medicare itself or from an insurance company that sells Medigap plans. Alternatively, you can download a .pdf file of that booklet here: http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/02110.pdf. This booklet has everything you need to know about Medigap plans (and probably more).The most important things to understand is that the plans are Federally-standardized – every company has to offer the same coverage plans – and that rates vary by age, zip code, gender, tobacco usage, etc., so you must compare specifically for your situation.
  2. Once you understand the standardization of plans, you can easily obtain a Medigap quote comparison online. To do this, make sure that you are judicious in where you request the information. There are hundreds of websites that offer this information, but keep in mind that anything you find online is typically not up to date or accurate. Most companies do not allow their rates to be listed online or published side-by-side with rates from competitors. Typically, you will have to enter some general information (name, age, zip code) to get accurate, up to date information. Some of the websites gather this information and sell to 8-10 agents. Take care to go to an actual brokerage or agency’s website, which will respond to you directly and guard your information. One good way to test this, if it is not mentioned directly on the site, is to see if the site has a “privacy policy” or “terms and conditions”. This way, you can make sure your information goes securely to one agent/agency.
  3. Once you have obtained the Medigap comparison, you can compare to what you are paying currently, if you have a Medigap plan now. If you have, for example, a Plan F, you can compare other Plan F rates to what you are paying now. If you are just turning 65 or going on Medigap, we recommend basing your comparison/decision primarily on the rates offered and secondarily on the rating of the companies offering the plans. Since coverage, claim payments, doctor acceptance, etc. are standardized, it is relatively easy to compare, find the best deal and choose a plan based on that.
  4. Once you find the plan that you want, you can simply enroll. If you are in an open enrollment (turning 65 or just going on Medicare Part B) situation, enrolling is easy and requires no health questions. Likewise, if you are in a “guaranteed issue” situation (i.e. losing employer coverage or some other creditable coverage, moving to a new state), you can get a plan without medical underwriting. If you are NOT in one of these situations, you can still change plans at any time, but you may be subject to medical underwriting.

To get a Medigap comparison from Medicare-Supplement.US, simply fill out the request on our Medigap quotes page – Quotes from Medicare-Supplement.US. You’ll receive a full, customized rate quote comparison by email, with updated rates for your specific situation within a few minutes during business hours. If you have any questions or would prefer to speak to someone by phone, you can reach us at 877.506.3378.

 

When is the Medigap Enrollment Period – How and When to Change Plans

Medigap plans are plans that are designed to work with Medicare Parts A & B. These plans are sold through private insurance companies. It is important to understand how these plans work, and there are many very common misconceptions out there about the plans.

First and foremost, many people mistakenly think that there is an annual Medicare Supplement/Medigap open enrollment period. This is simply not true. This misconception is fueled by the fact that Medicare ADVANTAGE plans (which are NOT Medicare Supplements) and Medicare Part D plans (Rx coverage) do have an annual enrollment period. The enrollment period for these plans runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. During that time, you can change plans, enroll in a plan, or disenroll from a plan.

Medicare Supplement plans, on the other hand, do not have such a period. On the contrary, you can enroll in or disenroll from a plan at any time. There are no set times of the year for enrolling in, or changing, your Medicare Supplement coverage.

There is an initial open enrollment period, the terminology of which also adds to the confusion. This initial open enrollment period applies when you first turn 65 or go on Medicare. During this time, you have 6 months to sign up for a plan without medical underwriting, pre-existing conditions etc. After that initial period, you can change plans at any time (and should if you can save money by doing so) but you do have to qualify medically to do it.

So, now that you understand that you can change plans at any time, how do you do it? If your Medigap rate has gone up, it is a good time to re-evaluate your plan and make sure you have the best “deal” available. Because the plans are standardized, it is important, on a regular basis, to compare Medigap rates and switch plans if you can save money by doing so.

If you find a plan that would be less expensive for you, you can apply for the new plan for a future effective date. Once the new plan is approved, you would simply cancel your old plan, effective the date that the new plan starts. This is how you easily and effectively switch Medigap plans. This can result in hundreds, in some cases thousands, of dollars in savings per year.

If you have any questions or would like to speak more about Medigap plan options or how and when you can change plans, you can call us at 877.506.3378 or visit our website at: Medicare-Supplement.US.

The Timeline for Changing Your Medicare Supplement Policy

If you are looking to make a change to your Medicare Supplement coverage in order to save money, it is important to understand the process and timeline for doing so. First of all, you should realize that there are no annual enrollment periods. You can change your Medicare Supplement at any time of the year. So, you are never “locked in” to a plan for a certain amount of time. Once you have that basic information, you can move forward with following these steps to change your Medicare Supplement plan/company:

  1. Do it at the “right” time. The “right” time is not the Medicare annual enrollment period necessarily, because this period does not apply to Medigap plans at all. You can change your Medigap coverage at any time. The “right” time with Medigap is any time you can save money on an equal plan (plans are standardized).
  2. Compare Medicare Supplement quotes. Comparing Medicare supplement quotes is easy to do. It is best done through an independent broker/agency (i.e. US – Medicare-Supplement.US). No matter who you use to do this, keep in mind that any time you can compare multiple plan rates side-by-side, it is to your advantage. Coverage, claim payments, etc are all standardized.
  3. Understand how the plans work. As mentioned above, Medigap plans all provide the same coverage with “like” plans. In other words, an ‘F’ plan with one company is the same as an ‘F’ plan with another company. In addition, the plans all work the same way. With Medigap plans, you can go to any doctor/hospital nationwide, as long as they take Medicare. Claims are also processed the same way.
  4. Make a change a month in advance of when you want it to take effect. This is an oft-forgotten aspect of making a change. Insurance companies, unfortunately, move like molasses (just like Medicare). In order to assure that you are not waiting on an approval into the following month (and waiting on a refund from your current company), it is important to apply at least a month in advance of when you want the coverage to start. Approval times vary from two weeks to four weeks in most cases and with most companies.
  5. Don’t forget to cancel your current policy. Once your new policy is approved, it is important to remember to cancel your old policy. The companies do NOT coordinate this for you. Your current agent may be able to help (should be able to help!) but it is ultimately your responsibility and you don’t want to get stuck waiting for a refund or paying “double”.

To compare Medigap plans in a centralized place, use an independent agency, whether it is us or someone else. To get quotes: check us out online or 877.506.3378.

How To Change Your Medicare Supplement Plan

Medicare Supplement plans often change rates each year. The rate increases do not occur, necessarily, with the calendar year, as most companies have their rate increases in the middle of the year. However, contrary to popular belief, there is NOT an annual enrollment period for Medicare Supplement plans. So regardless of when the increase occurs, you can compare plans/companies, change to a new option, and save money. Below, we’ve listed step-by-step instructions on doing that in a way that is hassle-free and will get you the most ‘bang for your buck’:

  1. First and foremost, you must understand the standardization of Medigap plans. All plans are Federally-standardized, so a Plan F with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another company. There are literally no differences in coverage, benefits, claim payments or doctor acceptance. Obviously, prices can vary greatly. They are determined by your gender, age, and zip code, and different companies target different geographics or demographics.
  2. Secondly, you should compare plans using an independent resource, which will allow you to compare all of the options in an unbiased place (at no cost to you). We can provide that service at Medigap Quotes, but regardless of whether it is us or someone else, I strongly recommend doing this to ensure that you are getting a full comparison of the available options.
  3. Next, you should choose a plan, based primarily on price and secondarily on company rating/reputation. The ratings that are given to companies are based on the financial size of the company. So it is not a customer satisfaction rating or a rating given by Medicare or doctor’s offices. So while it is somewhat important, you should remember that companies all are required to provide the same benefits, pay claims through the same Medicare “crossover” system, and are accepted at any doctor/hospital that takes Medicare, nationwide. So, price is the ultimate determining factor.
  4. Lastly, you should apply for the new plan for a future effective date, while maintaining coverage in your old plan. Once the new coverage is approved, you can terminate the old coverage effective the same date. This accounts for a smooth transition from one plan to another, with no gap or overlap in coverages.

If you have questions about how this works, or would like to see how much money you can save for equal coverage, you can call us at 877.506.3378 or contact us online at http://Medicare-Supplement.US.