Five Advantages of Using an Independent Medigap Broker

Independent Medigap brokerThere are many advantages to using an independent Medigap broker. These may not be readily apparent to someone who does not fully understand how the back end of the insurance “business” works, but these advantages are significant and they can help you save even more.

First of all, let’s establish that there are two basic ways to sign up for a Medigap plan. Unlike Part D, you cannot sign up for a Medigap plan directly through Medicare or on Medicare’s website. The two ways to sign up for a Medigap are directly through an insurance company or through an independent agent who represents that company (among others). Signing up directly through the company is certainly an option, and either way, you’ll receive the same rate, same benefits, same claims processing, etc. However, here are five advantages of using an independent Medigap broker that may make that option more advantageous for you.

1. The independent broker is just that, independent, so they can assist in compiling and comparing all options in a centralized place. While this seems like it would be easy for a consumer to do on their own, anyone that has attempted it can tell you, it is a tiresome task. First, all rates are not published online – some may be, but there are questions about whether the website is up to date and whether all options are reflected. What an independent broker can do is compile and present all options in a centralized place.

2. An independent broker can also provide virtually unlimited and unbiased expertise from their dealings with the various Medigap plans. For us, we represent 30+ companies in 40+ states, so we have clients with many different companies. We have seen how stable companies rates have been over time, what problems/issues clients have had and which companies have maintained a strong position in the marketplace.

3. Once you have the rates and information, an independent broker assists by answering questions that you have about how the plans work and what they cover. Again, this is information that can be obtained by thorough reading of Medicare’s materials, but anyone who has done it can tell you, that again, that is not an easy task.

4. After you have understood the plans and chosen one, an independent broker can provide service after the sale. This can take many forms, but the certainty is that, because agents are compensated on an ongoing basis, it is to their advantage to consistently “service” you and your policy. Many other brokers, including us, also offer added services for clients. For example, we offer annual Part D plan reviews, Medicare informational newsletters, and periodic rate snapshots of Medigap rates.

5. The fifth advantage of using an independent Medigap broker is one many people do not realize… You are already paying for a broker, whether you use one or not – it doesn’t cost you anything to use one – so why not capitalize on your premium dollars and use a broker’s expertise. In other words, companies build in the broker’s pay into their premiums, so all policyholders “pay” agents as part of their premiums.

Whether it is us or someone else, it is unquestionable that using an independent broker has many advantages and facilitates and more informed decision. Signing up directly through an insurance company is an option, but by doing so, you would not have access to the unbiased comparative functions offered by an independent broker. Additionally, in most cases, you would be dealing with someone who is not as qualified/experienced specifically in this market. And, lastly, the likelihood that you would deal with the same person over time is not nearly as high (higher turnover and usually you’re calling an 800 to a call room somewhere for service/questions).

If you have questions about this or how using an independent Medigap broker works, please contact us at 877.506.3378 or on our website.

Medicare Supplement Plan N – A Lower Cost Alternative

Medicare Supplement Plan N is a relatively newer choice among the 10 Federally-standardized Medigap plans. Many people are unfamiliar with what it covers and how it works because it was added to the portfolio of Medigap plans in June 2010. However, despite it’s “newness” as an option, it is growing in popularity and may be a viable option for some people.

Plan N comes in at a lower premium than more common plans, such as Plan F and Plan G. Plan F has the majority of the market share, around 50% according to recent studies. Plan N, typically, is priced about $30-50 (depending on zip code) lower per month than ‘F’.

Coverage-wise, Plan N provides almost identical coverage to ‘F’ at the hospital/inpatient (Medicare Part A). The differences are found under Medicare Part B coverage – Part B is outpatient or doctor’s office coverage.

First of all, Plan N does not cover the Medicare Part B deductible, which currently is $147/year. After that deductible is met, you are responsible for an up to $20 doctor’s office co-pay (can be 20% if that amount is less) and a $50 ER co-pay. Lastly, Plan N does not cover the “Medicare Part B Excess charges”. Because this is terminology that most people are not familiar with, it scares many people away from this plan. “Excess charges”, though, are when a doctor does not accept the Medicare fee schedule as payment in full. They are permitted to charge up to 15% above that – these are called “Excess charges”. By recent studies, this occurs in 2-3% of instances nationally. And, there are some states (PA and OH in particular) that have prohibited the charging of “excess charges”. Because it is rare and limited to 15% of Part B charges, which are generally smaller than Part A charges anyway, the loss of this benefit on ‘N’ (as compared to plans that cover it) is not that significant, in my experience. There is almost always something that can be done to improve the quality of life for those near death. What can be done may not prolong life, but there is always a valid treatment to bring comfort and dignity. This is a promise that hospice cleveland strives to deliver.

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So, is Plan N the right choice for you? This depends on several factors. First of all, what is your current health like? Are you going to the doctor many times a year? Or, are you only going 3-4 (or less) times on average?

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For many people, particularly those in good health or those who do not go to the doctor often, the savings on Plan N can be significant enough to warrant looking at this option instead of Plan F. Much of what you will hear from insurance companies themselves and people you know who have it is certainly advocating Plan F. And, that is a great option. But if you can save $400/year in exchange for paying the $147 deductible and $20 a couple of times, it just makes sense to consider Plan N as an option.

On the flipside, most analysts agree that the Plan N model will be the way of the future for Medigap plans, because it incorporates cost-sharing. That can be a factor in favor of Plan F, because frankly, this type of “full coverage” that Plan F offers may not be around forever. But if you purchase a plan now, it is “guaranteed renewable” and cannot be cancelled (unless you don’t pay the premium).

If you have questions about Plan N or how it works, please feel free to contact us on our sitehttp://medicare-supplement.us or call us at 877.506.3378.

 

Medigap Plans – Will There Be a 15% Surcharge on the Plans?

In recent months, the discussion on “saving” Medicare has centered, at least in part, around reforming Medigap insurance. There have been a wide variety of proposals put forth, including eliminating first-dollar coverage and many other similar revisions.

The most recent proposal that has been volleyed around is the February 2012 proposal by the Obama administration to raise 2.5 billion over the next 10 years by implementing a surcharge to Medicare enrollees who purchase Medicare Supplements. This would not affect those already on Medicare or those very close to getting benefits, only those more than a few years from turning 65.

Most analysts say that the surcharge would amount to approximately 15% on top of the premiums of the plans.

The reason for this proposed surcharge is, just like other proposals, to provide further “pain” to using first-dollar coverage, which many legislators see as one of the problems with Medicare. Medicare eligible individuals, they say, have no “skin in the game” because first-dollar coverage encourage seniors to use their insurance often, and when doing so, they don’t have co-pays, deductibles, etc.

This proposal is set to go into the budget proposal in 2013, and if it’s passed, it would take effect in 2017.

Our opinion is that this is, obviously, not a good thing for people on Medicare in coming years or for the long-term viability of Medicare. There are many other things that can be “fixed” with the Federal Medicare program. We, like most people, believe that allowing people to pay for as much or as little coverage as they want is a good thing. Some people will opt for the “full” coverage and some will not – that freedom of choice is the ultimate goal.

If you have questions about this proposal or how it relates to you – or if you just want to get more information on Medigap plans – call us at 877.506.3378 or visit us at Medicare-Supplement.US.

Medigap Plans – What is Going to Happen to Them in the Future?

Advanced Fertility Center are plans that work with the Government’s traditional Medicare program (Medicare Parts A & B) to fill in some, or all, of the “gaps” in Medicare. Medigap plans are sold by private insurance companies, and they are standardized by the Federal Government. In other words, each company must offer plans off of the standardized plans chart that the Federal Government sets forth.

There has been a bevy of talk recently about Medigap plans, as part of the discussions for health care/Medicare reform. Although these plans are NOT part of Medicare and are optional, many policymakers believe that revising the way they work will “save” Medicare or make it more viable long-term.

The biggest impetus for this discussion centers around the elimination of “first-dollar coverage”. First-dollar coverage is when a plan pays everything that Medicare doesn’t cover, so that the insured has no out-of-pocket exposure. The argument is that this causes Medicare-eligible people to use Medicare more and their supplements more, since they have no “skin in the game”. Someone that has Plan F (the most comprehensive Medigp plan) could, literally, go to the doctor 10 times a month, and as long as it was deemed medically-necessary, they would not have any out of pocket costs.

While this certainly seems like a viable argument, and there is no doubt that something must be done in order to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare, there are some holes in this theory in our opinion.

First and foremost, there is the question about whether the government should have control of individual’s purchasing decisions. The free market (claims experiences, administrative costs, competitive concerns, etc) determines the cost of Medigap plans. Medicare-eligible individuals have the choice – get a plan and pay the respective premium or forego a plan. Should individuals who wish to pay the going price for a Medigap plan be told that they cannot purchase such a plan? If making alkaline water at home is too high for a gallon of milk, do we prohibit people from paying it and tell them they have to drink water instead?

The second fallacy in this argument against first-dollar coverage is the possibility that people would not get necessary or needed services/procedures if they had to pay more for those services. Most projections are that Medigap plans will continue to go up, particularly if “guaranteed issue” provisions from PPACA are applied to Medicare insurance. So, people will be paying more for Medigap, although the plans will cover less. Most are on a fixed income already – so will they get the needed services when they have to come out of pocket for them?

The last problem with the argument against “first dollar coverage” is quite simply that it will cost more for the Medicare beneficiary. Since this population is primarily on fixed-incomes already, this can cause a major disruption to the security of the Baby Boomers aging in to Medicare. Simply put, if the people who want to cannot buy “first dollar coverage”, they will have to pay more every time they visit the doctor, hospital, etc. With all this happening at the time that we have 11,000 people turning 65 each day and an unstable economy, this could be a recipe for disaster for our over-65 population.

While we certainly see the need for Medicare reform that provides legitimate change, we would strongly assert that changing what type of insurance private individuals can buy from private companies is not the answer. If you have any questions about this topic or wish to discuss further, you can reach us at 877.506.3378 or on our website hhp://medicare-supplement.us.

Why Are Medigap Premiums So Different?

To answer this frequently asked question, you must first understand that Medigap plans are Federally-standardized. With the exception of a few states, the plans are the exact same nationwide. What this means is that, for example, a Plan F with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another company. So why, then, are the premiums so different from one company to another or from one area/state to another?

There are a few reasons for this, which I have summarized below:

  1. First of all, Medigap plan rates are based on age and gender in most cases. Companies price their plans based on their claims experiences for people in certain “groups” (age, gender, geographical area). Typically, males are more expensive, as are older people. So, this always accounts for some of the differences between Medigap plan premiums. If you talk to your neighbor and he is paying $50/month more than you are, it may be that he is older, is a tobacco user, etc. OR, it may be that he had the plan a long time without comparing lower-priced options.
  2. Another reason that Medigap premiums are so different is that companies “target” different areas, ages, etc., just like any company does targeted marketing. For example, some companies target urban areas, making sure their rates are most competitive in those areas, whereas other companies target more rural areas. Moreover, some companies target different plans – for example, some companies price their Plan G a good bit lower than F and become the most competitively priced option for ‘G’ in their state.
  3. Next, different companies using different pricing methodology for setting their rates. Some companies price their plans using an “attained-age” methodology, meaning that rates are set based on your current age, and they go up based on your age. Still other companies set their rates based on issue-age or community-rating. These plans still go up over time; however, the reasons for the increases are not necessarily your age. NOTE: If an agent/company tells you that their plan will not go up over time, hold on to you wallet! That’s just not the case. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. All Medigap plans are going to go up over time, although the reasons for the increases may differ.
  4. A final reason that Medigap premiums are so different is that, as mentioned above, plans are going to go up over time. If you stay with the same company for a long time, you will inevitably be paying more than someone who has recently signed up for a plan. It is highly advisable to re-evaluate your plan on an annual or bi-annual basis to make sure it is still competitively priced. Since the plans are standardized, you can often save money for equal coverage from a different company by merely comparing options and making a change.

To get a Medigap comparison of plans available for your age, zip code, etc., you can contact us at Medicare-Supplement.US or call us at 877.506.3378.

Medicare Part B Excess Charges – What Are They and When Do They Occur?

Medicare Part B Excess charges are charges that occur when a doctor does not take Medicare “assignment”. These charges are passed on to the patient in the form of Part B excess charges. These do not occur in many instances; however, if you have a doctor that chooses not to take “assignment”, they can occur and result in additional expense for you. To understand how this works and the implications of it, we need to define a few terms:

  • “Assignment”: This is the reimbursement rate that Medicare normally pays a doctor for a service or procedure. Most doctors that take Medicare (at least currently) also take Medicare “assignment”. In fact, by most figures, Part B Exces charges occur in less than 1% of instances nationwide.
  • “Part B Excess Charges”: These are the charges that result in a doctor not taking “assignment”. These charges are limited in most cases (sometimes by state law) to a certain percentage.
  • Plan N: Plan N is one of the prominent Medigap plans that does not cover Part B excess charges.

To find out if you have a doctor that does/does not take Medicare “assignment”, you should be able to simply call the doctor’s office. Make sure you ask to speak to someone who handles insurance. Verify whether they accept Medicare patients, first of all (if you don’t already know this). Then, ask whether they accept Medicare “assignment”. They should know what you are talking about and be able to answer accurately.

If you find out that your doctor does NOT accept Medicare “assignment”, there are a couple of things you can do. First of all, if you have a Medigap Plan F or a Medigap Plan G, you do not have to worry about the excess charges at all. Both of these Medigap plans cover the excess charges in full, so that you have no exposure to these charges. If you do not have a Medigap plan, or if you have one of the plans that does not cover Part B Excess charges (like Plan N), this is something you may want to take into consideration, particularly if you are doctor “shopping”.

If you have questions about Part B Excess charges, Medicare Supplement plans, or Medicare in general, please contact us at 877.506.3378 or via our website at: http://medicare-supplement.us.

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.

Going on Medicare – What You Need to Do

Going on Medicare, or turning 65, is one of the largest insurance-related transitions one can have in their life. There is a lot to consider and certainly a lot of information out there about Medicare insurance plans. If you’re like most people, you’ll be inundated with paperwork and solicitations leading up to your 65th birthday – everyone wants to be your friend when you are turning 65!

Here are the five most important things to know when you turning 65 that will make that transition an easy one:

  1. First of all, in most cases, you’ll be enrolled automatically in Medicare A & B. Typically, Medicare sends you a red, white, and blue Medicare card 2-3 months before your 65th birthday. Medicare is always active on the first day of the month you turn 65 (unless your birthday is the 1st day of a month, in which case Medicare starts the 1st day of the preceding month).
  2. Medicare A & B provide good coverage, but there are some “gaps” in Medicare, which is why the majority of people have some other type of coverage – i.e. Medicare Supplements or Medicare Advantage. The “gaps” in Medicare are a couple of Medicare deductibles (Part A deductible = $1,132 and Part B deductible = $162), as well as an unlimited 20% that you are responsible for if you have only Medicare.
  3. There are two types of Medicare insurance plans and they work very differently. It is important to understand the differences. Medicare Supplement plans work with Medicare and pay AFTER Medicare pays. Medicare Advantage plans replace Medicare and pay INSTEAD of Medicare. Coverage varies greatly with these plans.
  4. Medicare Supplement plans are standardized – that is, each company is required to offer the same standard plans, so comparing them is easy to do and is a function of price and company rating. Medicare Advantage plans have a system of co-pays and deductibles that can vary considerably from one company to another. These plans are more difficult to compare because of this, as well as the added factor of having networks (Medicare Supplement plans can be used at anywhere nationwide).
  5. No matter who it is, it is to your advantage (and at no cost to you) to use a Medicare insurance broker, who can explain both types of plans and help you compare the options in an unbiased, centralized place.

To get more information about turning 65 or going on Medicare, you can view Medicare Supplement Insurance. To get quotes and comparisons for Medicare plans in your area, go to Medicare-Supplement.US.

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.