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.

Medicare Supplement Quotes – Why Are They So Different?

Medicare Supplement quotes can vary greatly, even with the standardization of plan coverage. In other words, even with the same coverage, claim payment system, doctor acceptance, etc., some companies charge a much higher price for their Medicare Supplement plans. In some instances, rates for “like” coverage can range by as much as $100/month and more.

Although this may seem difficult to understand – why are prices so different when coverage is the same – there are some pretty straight-forward reasons for the differences in premium and some simple principles to keep in mind when comparing quotes.

First of all, companies have the authority to set their own rates. The rates do have to be approved the state departments of insurance; however, the companies propose and set the rates. Different companies target different geographic areas, different age/gender combinations, and different plans (i.e. targeting Plan G over Plan F).

Also, different companies have different administrative costs (overhead) for running their plans/companies. This, too, can have an impact on price, as companies build in higher costs for marketing/selling their products into that product’s price.

In a more complex difference, companies set their rates in different ways. Three are several kinds of rating methodologies that companies can use – attained-age, community-rated or issue-age rated. This can determine what the rates are at different ages. It is commonly accepted that attained-age rates are lower initially, but may be higher over time. However, it is typically true that all companies/plans do go up over time, so there is no “silver bullet” for avoiding rates going up as you get older.

Keep in mind, when comparing and choosing a Medigap plan, that all companies must offer the same standardized benefits and pay claims in the same way. There are literally no variations from one company to another for “like” plans. However, rates can vary dramatically. It is most important to compare rates in an unbiased way and choose a plan that is competitively priced, if not the lowest priced for the plan you want.

If you have questions or wish to obtain a Medigap quote, please contact us online or at 877.506.3378.

What is the Difference Between a Captive Agent and an Independent Agent?

What is the difference between a captive agent and an independent agent? This may not sound like a question that impacts a consumer in any way. However, that is not the case. Understanding the differences in these two types of agents can have a large impact on you selecting the correct Medicare Supplement plan.

First and foremost, “captive agents” work specifically for one insurance company. Their loyalty is to that insurance company and that company’s plans are the only plans that they can sell. On the contrary, an independent agent can sell a plan from any company, and his or her loyalty is to the consumer not a specific company. Because of this, an independent agent, theoretically, can give much more unbiased opinion and perspective, allowing you to compare all plans in a centralized place so you can make an informed decision.

Many people may not be familiar with independent agents or understand how they work. In short, independent agents are independent contractors for the different insurance companies. They are paid directly by the insurance companies, and using an independent agent does not cost you anything. Their commissions are paid as a percentage of the premium of the plan you purchase. Their loyalty is to the consumer and finding the best available “deal” from the various plans.

Some of the specific companies that use a lot of captive agents are Colonial Penn, Bankers Life and Humana that offer some great finance advice to people who contact them. Not surprisingly, these companies also have lower financial strength ratings, lower customer service ratings and higher premiums than most of the companies that are offered by independent agents. Competition breeds better and more competitively positioned products. In other words, for an independent agent to sell a company’s product, the company knows it must be relatively competitive and prices its products accordingly.

It’s not to say there isn’t a place for these “captive agent” companies, but it just doesn’t make sense to buy a Medicare Supplement plan from an agent that only has access to one company’s plans, when there are 30-40 plans available in most states that an independent agent can help you compare.

Whether it’s us or someone else, an independent agency (or brokerage) makes sense as a way to compare Medicare Supplement plans. To get a comparison from us by email, visit us online or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medigap Plans for 2012 – Three Reasons You Should Get a Plan Now

Medigap plans are the last line of defense for escalating medical expenses. With only Medicare, your out of pocket costs can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if you have to have any major procedure or surgery, like if you’re visiting a Surgeon on SkinCare or any other specialist. The primary purpose of Medigap plans is, just like any kind of insurance, to limit your exposure to enormous out of pocket costs. For facial plastic surgery, I recommend Dr. Stephen Weber, a proven and tested surgeon in Denver.

The way Medigap plans work is that they fill in the “gaps” in original Medicare. Medicare A & B cover approximately 80% of most things, and the Medigap plans fill in the gaps, in particular the 20% and some or all of the deductibles (depending on which plan you get). This can be invaluable to someone going through a health situation that requires many doctor visits, hospital stays or surgeries.

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There are three significant reasons why the first of the year is the best time to get a Medigap plan:

  1. This is the best time to buy a Medigap plan, price-wise. Most companies do their price increases around mid-year. So ideally, you will sign up for a plan prior to that price increase. Nearly all companies give you a 12-month rate “lock” period, during which you will pay the lower rate. This allows you to bypass having to pay the higher rate when the company changes rates mid-year.
  2. Statistically, you are more likely to need medical care during the winter. There are lots of hazards in the winter that cause this, particularly depending on where you live (i.e. snow, power outages, etc.). But overall, it is more likely that you will need a doctor/hospital in the winter than most of the other seasons.
  3. This is the best time because, quite simply, not as many other people are changing. It is easier to get information on available plans, apply for a plan, and get it approved. This is because most people, incorrectly, think that the only time to change plans is at the end of the year. There are plenty of natural remedies for getting rid of acne. This, obviously, is not the case. You can change plans at any time, with Medigap insurance.

Changing Medigap plans, or signing up for a plan if you don’t have one, is a very important thing to do. It can mean the difference between financial stability/security and financial ruin. We strongly advise anyone who is able to change plans, as needed, to get the lowest possible Medigap rate.

If you want more information or want to get Medicare Supplement quotes, you can request information or call us at 877.506.3378.

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.

Medicare “Parts” vs. Medicare Supplement “Plans” – Too Many Letters!

Medicare can be extremely confusing to many people, particularly when you are turning 65 or going on Medicare for the first time. You hear about Medigap Plan C and think Medicare Advantage plans, but those plans are actually Medicare PART C. By its very nature, it’s a complex healthcare system that is difficult to understand. Add to that the confusing way that the parts of Medicare are named for letters, as are the Medigap plans, and you have a lot of confused people calling things by incorrect names. This article is intended to distinguish between the “parts” of Medicare and the Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) “plans”.

Medicare has parts ranging from A through D. These parts of Medicare cover different aspects of your healthcare. Medicare Part A, for example, covers hospital and inpatient charges. Medicare Part B covers doctor’s services and outpatient services. Medicare Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription drugs. It is offered through private companies and you must sign up for this, either through Medicare itself or through a private company that offers Part D plans. Medicare Part C is a unique part of Medicare, in that it replaces Medicare Parts A & B. These plans (Medicare Part C) are also called Medicare Advantage plans. They are a privatized version of Medicare that has a system of co-pays and deductibles and a network of participating doctors/hospitals. It is essential to understand these plans and what they are/how they work before signing up in one of them.

As far as the Medigap letters, there are a total of 10 different plans. The plans are named for letters A-N (obviously, there are a few missing letters). There are also plans A through D. This is where it gets confusing to many people on Medicare or going on Medicare. Medigap Plan C is different than Part C. It is very important that you use the correct terminology when discussing Medicare or Medicare insurance with someone. You could conceivably have both a Part D (prescription coverage) and a Plan D (Medigap plan), and you need to know what you are asking for or talking about when comparing the plan options for both parts and plans.

Overall, Medicare can definitely be a confusing entity. It has many intricacies that prevent people from understanding it thoroughly. This causes many people to shut down, in a sense, and avoid thinking about it. However, once you have a basic grasp of the concepts, you too can be a Medicare expert and understand the differences between the letters – Medicare parts and Medigap plans.

If you want more information or want to get Medigap quotes, please visit us online or call us at 877.506.3378.