Medicare Annual Election Period Ends – Medigap Enrollment Still Open

The Medicare annual election period ended December 7. This is the time of year that you can change Medicare Part D plans or Medicare Advantage plans, if you are on one of those plans in place of traditional Medicare.Although the AEP is over, you can still make any changes you want to make to your Medigap coverage. Medigap plans do not have an annual enrollment period – you can change plans at any time for any reason, contrary to popular misconception.

If you are on a Medicare Advantage plan, you are locked in to that plan for the year now, unless you disenroll during the short Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP), which runs January 1 through February 14. If you do choose to disenroll from your Medicare Advantage plan during this period, you can do so and return to “regular” Medicare A & B and pick up a Medigap plan to fill in the ‘gaps’ in Medicare.

For those on Medigap plans already, it is advisable to compare your Medigap plan to other options on an annual or bi-annual basis. With Medigap plans, rates change annually in many cases. While coverage does not change from year to year, it can make sense to “shop” your rate to make sure you are still getting a good deal.

Fortunately, this is very easy to do when it comes to Medigap plans, as the plans are Federally-standardized. In other words, if you have a Plan F now, you can “shop” other Plan F’s on the basis of rate, with the security that the coverage itself is going to be the same. Additionally, the plans all work in the same way – i.e. you can use them anywhere that takes Medicare, and claims are processed automatically through the Medicare “crossover” system.

If you have not compared your Medigap rates against other options in the last year or more, it is advisable to do so now. Also, if you have a Plan F, now is the time to consider Plan G. Plan G is a better “deal” in almost all cases and will provide annual savings and more rate stability.

If you have questions or want to compare your current rate against what is available, you can request a comparison on our Medicare-Supplement.US website or call us at 877.506.3378.

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.

Medicare Enrollment Period – What Changes Can You Make?

The Annual Election Period (AEP), or Medicare Enrollment Period, as it sometimes called, is the period of time during which some changes can be made to your Medicare plan coverages. There are many misconceptions about this period and what changes you can make during it. It is important to understand how this period works and exactly what steps you need to take during this period to ensure continued quality Medicare plan coverage.

Original Medicare – Parts A & B
If you are already on Medicare Parts A & B, you do NOT need to do anything during this period to continue to have Medicare coverage. If, however, you do not have Medicare Part B yet, you can sign up at this time for it to take effect on 1/1/13. This is useful if you are leaving, or losing, employer group coverage.

Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is probably the most important thing to understand, as it relates to the Medicare enrollment period. This is the only time of year that you can change your Part D prescription drug plan. Part D plans do change each year, so it is essential to know how your plan is changing and make sure it is still the most advisable choice for you. You will receive a plan notice of change around October 1 – this will detail how your plan is changing for the next year. Often, plan premiums, deductibles, co-pays, tier structures, etc. will all change on a plan from year to year. You can compare all of the plan options to make sure yours is still the best for your current needs by using an independent brokerage (like Medicare-Supplement.us!) or by going to the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov). Either way will allow you to choose a plan based on your current medication needs.

Medicare Supplements (Medigap)
Contrary to popular misconception, you can actually change Medigap plans at any time of the year. The end of year period is a good time to do it, particularly if your plan rates have changed during the year. However, you can do it at any time. You can enroll in, disenroll from, or change your plan to another option. Because these plans are Federally-standardized, coverage is the same with every plan. For example, a Plan F with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another company. So, if you can find a lower-priced option for the plan you have, and are able to change, switching plans is a wise thing to do to reduce your premium costs.

Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage is the type of plan that replaces Medicare – basically, it is a privatized version of Medicare. The Annual Election Period (October 15-December 7) is the only time of year that you can make changes to this plan (unless you fall in a special election period circumstance – i.e. losing other coverage, moving out of your plan’s area, etc.). So, if this is the type of plan you have chosen, it is wise to make any changes to it at this time. You can compare the other options and make changes as necessary.

If you have any questions about the Medicare enrollment period, please contact us at Medicare-Supplement.US or call us at 877.506.3378. Medicare-Supplement.US is an independent Medicare insurance brokerage that can assist you with comparing the plan options and choosing a suitable plan.

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.

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.