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. 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.

Instant Medigap Quotes – The and “Why” and “How” of Getting Them

Getting an instant Medigap quote is what most people looking at Medigap plans want. In our day and age, everyone wants everything instantaneously, and frankly, we’ve come to expect it. It’s no different when you are perusing the Internet for Medigap quotes.Getting the quotes instantaneously, however, is not always possible, because many of the companies do not allow their rates to be published online. If they are published online, they are often out of date – most webmasters do not update their sites regularly – or they do not reflect the full picture (i.e. additional charges, discounts, etc).

Fortunately, it is possible to get the quotes very quickly, delivered securely by email, and customized to your age, gender, health, zip code (and all of the factors that go into determining your rate). This way, you can compare on you own time, in an unbiased way, without having to talk to an agent or set up a face-to-face meeting.

There are many websites available that offer this service; however, it is essential that you understand who you are getting the quotes from to the greatest extent possible. Many of these websites are “quote farm” websites, set up specifically to capture your information and sell it as a “lead” to 8-10 insurance agents that will all give you the same information and bombard you with phone calls, emails, etc. Do your due diligence to the extent possible, and request the information from an independent agency, a brokerage, which represents many of the companies, if not all, so that you can compare in a centralized, unbiased place. We are an independent medigap brokerage, but whether it is us or someone else, we highly recommend using one to get the instant Medigap quotes you are seeking.

When you are requesting the quotes, all you have to do is enter some general information, enough for the agent to run some quotes. You will then receive the information by email – we send the email within 10 minutes (it’s a partially automated process) during business hours. We specifically do not request your phone number on our request form – most of our business is done without needing to talk to clients at all, or at least not extensively.

If you have questions about this process, want to find out more about how to get instant medigap quotes, or just want to discuss your Medigap plan, you can visit us online or call 877.506.3378.

Where Can I Use My Medigap Plan?

So, once you have a Medigap plan, or while you are comparing plan options, you probably still have questions. Where can you use this plan? Should you check your doctors to make sure that they take your company? Should you call every possible hospital that you may go to to make sure that you will not have a problem if/when you need to go there?

First and foremost, it is important to understand the standardization of plans. Every plan is completely standardized, as far as coverage goes. One Plan F is the exact same as another ‘F’ from another company. Likewise, the plans work in the same way, as far as where you can use them. This does not vary from company to company.

Here are a few important things to know about where you can use your Medigap plan:

  • Medigap plans do NOT have networks. You can go to any doctor/hospital that takes Medicare. Your doctor will not “take” or not take your Medigap plan. He will or will not take Medicare, and the supplemnet plans “follow” Medicare.
  • One of the major sources of confusion about this is that other types of plans do have networks. In particular, Medicare replacement plans (Medicare Advantage) are PPO and HMO type plans. These plans are all regional in nature, and all of these plans do have networks. In recent years, there has been much talk about doctors refusing to take this type of plan due to changes in reimbursement rates, etc. Do not confuse this talk with the actual Medicare Supplements (Medigap), which do not have networks.
  • Medigap plans are not regionally-based, they are national plans. No matter where you are in the country, or if you move to a new state, you can continue to use your Medigap plan in the same way. These plans are national plans, so nothing about the coverage changes in different places in the country. You can continue to use your plan as normal.
  • The best way to find out if you can use your Medigap plan somewhere is to ask them if they take Medicare and make sure that they understand that you have an actual Supplement plan (not Medicare Advantage).

If you have any questions about Medigap plans, how they work or using an existing Medigap plan, you can contact us on our website at Medicare-Supplement.us or toll-free at 877.506.3378.

 

 

What is the Difference in Medigap and Medicare Advantage?

This is one of the most commonly-asked questions by people who are turning 65. The question assumes that you understand that there IS a difference in these two types of Medicare plan options. They are certainly very different and, if comparing the two, be careful about comparing based on price, benefits, etc. because it is simply not comparing “apples to apples”. My recommendation would be to first decide which “direction” you want to go (Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage) and then from there, deciding which company/plan you want to go with.

So, what are the differences in the two types of plans? Here are the primary differences between Medicare Supplement (also called Medigap) and Medicare Advantage plans:

  1. First of all, the nature of the plans varies. Medigap plans, or Medicare Supplement plans, are designed to work with Medicare. They fill in the “gaps” in Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, replace Medicare instead of supplementing it. They work independently and become your coverage by themselves.
  2. The 2nd main point of variation between the two types of plans is doctor availability. With Medigap plans, you can go to any doctor that takes Medicare. If they take Medicare, they are required to take any of the standardized Medicare Supplement plans (regardless of company). Medicare Advantage plans are network-based plans. These plans are either PPOs or HMOs, in most cases, and you must stay within a prescribed network of participating doctors/facilities. These networks are typically regionally-based.
  3. The next difference between the plans is the cost-sharing structure. Medigap plans are designed to fill in most, or in some cases all, of the gaps in Medicare. So, there are, in the case of Plan F for example, no out of pocket costs. Medicare Advantage plans, however, have an elaborate system of co-pays and deductibles for different services/procedures.
  4. Another difference between the two plan types is availability to change plans. Medigap plans allow you to change at any time of the year, for any reason. Medicare Advantage plans only allow changes to coverage during the annual enrollment period which is Oct. 15-Dec. 7 each year. Also, and very importantly, if you take a Medicare Advantage plan when first eligible for Medicare, and then at a later time, wish to switch to a Medigap plan, you will have to “qualify medically” to move from a Medicare Advantage plan to a Medigap plan. If you have any pre-existing conditions, this may be difficult to do.

Overall, both plans are certainly viable options for someone on Medicare. However, our general recommendation would be towards the actual Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans based on their stability, flexibility and comprehensive coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may make more sense in very urban areas or to low-income populations. But on the whole, Medigap plans will give the most comprehensive coverage for a reasonable price with lasting stability.

If you have any questions about this information or want to compare Medigap plan options, call us at 877.506.3378 or visit our website.

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.

Medigap Rate Increases – How To Avoid Them

The title to this post is admittedly deceiving. There is simply not way to altogether avoid Medigap rate increases. Regardless of the company you are with, or the plan that you have, all Medigap plans are going to go up in price over time.

Some companies claim that their rates do not go up, or at the least, go up at a slower rate than other options. I would be very leery of anyone who tells you this. Because quite simply, that is not the case. Even issue-age and community-rated policies are going to go up over time. They may not go up based on you getting a year older, but they go up for other more arbitrary reasons, including but not limited to, administrative costs increase, changes in Medicare, etc.

The most effective strategy, then, because you can’t avoid the rate increases, is to maximize your savings whenever possible. If your rate goes up, we advise “shopping” it around to see if you can get a better deal from another company for the same coverage plan. There is simply no other way to keep your costs low over time.

The best way to “shop” around is to get quotes by email. You can compare “like” plans – same coverage from a different company – and easily see if there is a more suitable option for you. If there is, changing Medigap plans is very easy to do. You can simply apply for the new plan with a future effective date. Then, once it is approved, you cancel the old policy effective that same day. And, there you have it, you’ve easily saved yourself hundreds of dollars a year (sometimes, thousands, depending on what plan you plan and where you live) and kept the same level of standardized Medigap coverage.

Now, many people obviously don’t realize the benefits of this, or simply don’t like thinking about health insurance, but the benefits far outweigh whatever perceived inconvenience you believe that it is. If we can assist in your comparison process, we’re happy to do so. Contact us at: Medicare-Supplement.US, Or get more information by calling 877.506.3378.

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.