One of the most painful calls I get is from a client who is calling on behalf of a parent. They want to know if there is anything I can do for a parent who is paying huge monthly premiums for her Medicare supplement. The agent who signed them up is long gone. The supplement has increased over the years due to age and rate increases. Now the parent is in her 80’s and in poor health, and the monthly premium is financially crushing. Many times there is nothing I can do because their mom or dad cannot pass the underwriting questions to change to a supplement that would be significantly less. They missed out on one of the keys to unlocking Medicare–an agent who shops her policy each year.
Five Keys to Unlocking Medicare
There are five keys to unlocking Medicare. First you need to do some research yourself. The bible for Medicare is Medicare & You. It is the official Medicare Handbook that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services publishes each year. The Medicare.gov website is an endless source of resources. It is important to do your own research so you are familiar with the proper Medicare terminology. That way, you can better understand a serious discussion around Medicare.
The Big Key
Key number two: search for an experienced, independent agent. Experience means they have been doing this for years. Ask them when they got their insurance license. They should be able to spit that out without thinking. Ask if they do this fulltime. There are a lot of insurance companies and agencies who hire part-time people to increase their production. They give them little education or training. Even less support. Most drop out of the business after six or nine months. That probably is not the person you want. Ask if they are independent. Some insurance agents can only offer one company. They cannot shop the world of Medicare plans. Ask them to list the companies they offer. If they change the subject or only list one or two, you have your answer.
Key number three: ask questions. As I tell my clients who are aging into Medicare, you turn 65 once in a lifetime. I help people turning 65 going on Medicare four or five times in a day. I am excited when someone asks me a question I haven’t heard before. An experienced agent should be able to quickly and easily explain the details of Medicare, supplements, advantage plans, prescription drugs, etc. If not, you may wish to look somewhere else.
Price Compare Med Sups
Key number four: compare every year. I talk to my clients at least once a year. I want to know that everything is going well. Part of the conversation is the price of their supplement. With age and rate increases, what are you currently paying? I shop their supplement right then and there over the phone. I tell them if there is a plan of equal or better value at a lower price. That prevents you from getting into the situation in your later years of a plan with back breaking premiums.
Key number five: stay healthy! Go to the gym. Eat healthy. Chase grandchildren, pets, moving cars, anything that will get your heart rate up. One of the keys to unlocking Medicare supplements is your ability to pass underwriting questions so you can change plans and pay less. I can try different companies that have more liberal underwriting guidelines, but ultimately there are limitations for serious health issues.
Medicare and Medicare supplements are awesome health insurance, but to enjoy the greatest benefits from this awesome resource, you need to follow these simple five keys. Call me 402-614-3389 or the American Association of Medicare Supplements to find an experienced, independent agent near you.
If you saw a Benjamin Franklin $100 bill laying on the sidewalk, would you pick it up? If someone offered to pay your groceries for 2 months, would you take them up on that? If you had to fill out a coupon to receive six months of free gas for your car, would you send it in? Most people would, but most people never price compare their Medicare Supplement to save $100, $500, $1000 a year. One of the most common excuses and common Medicare myths is that it is not Annual Election Period (AEP), which is Oct 15th–Dec 7th, so ‘I can’t do anything.’
Common Medicare Myths
A common Medicare Myth I hear everyday is that you can’t change your Supplement except during Annual Election. That is true about Medicare Part D plans. Unless you have a special election, you cannot change your Medicare prescription drug plan until Oct 15th. The same applies to Medicare Part C/Medicare Advantage. You cannot change from one company or plan to another except from Oct 15–Dec 7th. Those are the CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) rule.
Change Medicare Supplement Any Time
That, however, is not the case for Medicare Supplements. You can change your supplement every month if you wish. A Medicare Supplement is a contract with a private insurance company that fills in the gaps in your Medicare coverage. It pays the Part A hospital deductible. It pays some or all of the 20% co-insurance under Part B. All you have to do to change supplements is answer some health questions and fill out the forms. That’s it.
Compare prices. It takes less than 5 minutes. I do quotes for people all day. You can know in seconds whether you are overpaying for the exact same coverage, and you can do something about it. You can change right now. You can save $300, $500, $1000 a year right now. It is especially appropriate to check after you receive a rate increase from your insurance company. You aren’t stuck. Pick up the phone and find out your options.
This is still the land of the free, and in the Medicare Supplement world you are free to compare and change. Don’t be fooled by one of the common Medicare myths. You can make changes to your supplement at any time. Compare prices. If you would stop, bend over, and pick of a Benjamin Franklin laying on the sidewalk. You can take the time to check the supplement rates and even fill out an application 402-614-3389.
People constantly ask me, ‘What should I do about Medicare?’ They are overwhelmed with all the brochures from insurance companies. They look through the 162 pages of the Official Medicare Handbook and are further confused. Some go to the Medicare.gov website, and are confounded in attempts to navigate through the endless ocean of information. They simply ask in bewilderment, “What does everyone else do?’ A huge number of people choose a Medicare supplement, or Medigap plan, as the solution, but more of an answer is needed than just ‘everyone is doing it.’ Some thoughtful consideration is required.
Part A Deductible
Medicare is a generous health plan. It covers a majority of the hospital and doctor costs, but there is some important exposure to be aware of. Medicare Part A covers the hospital, but only after you pay the deductible of $1,288. That deductible is not an annual deductible. It is per event within a 60 day period. While you would have to be very unlucky, very sick, or both, you could pay that deductible an endless number of times. That is your exposure.
Part B Co-Insurance
Medicare Part B covers 80% of the doctor and outpatient procedures. While that is quite generous, 20% of a big number is still a big number. Heart attacks, strokes, cancer treatment can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Twenty percent of a $200,000 bill is $40,000. Most people would find that beyond the family budget.
And with Part A & B, there is NO maximum-out-of-pocket (MOOP). In other words, you continue to pay as the bills roll in. You do not stop paying on deductibles and co-insurance if all you have is Original Medicare without anything else.
So comes the questions from clients: ‘What should I do about Medicare?’ Medicare supplements or Medigap plans fill in those gaps in Medicare. They cover the hospital deductibles and 20% co-insurance for doctor and outpatient use. Depending on how much you wish to cover, the Medigap plan can cover everything 100%, most of everything, or a potion. You choose. There are ten plans available.
12,200,000 Satisfied Medigap Clients
The fact that 22% of people on Medicare choose a supplement and stay on a supplement for 20-30 years tells you the level of satisfaction. There are currently 55,200,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Of that number 12,200,000 chose a supplement. That number grows each year: 9.7 million in 2010 to 12.2 million in 2015. The key number is that 9 out of 10 Medigap beneficiaries say that they are satisfied with their coverage and keep their coverage. Med Sup Conference Stats
While Medicare is a wonderful health insurance program for seniors, it doesn’t cover everything. You still have exposure to significant financial loss if you only have Medicare alone.
One of the things that holds people back from purchasing a Medicare supplement is that they don’t know. That is, they don’t investigate what Medigap plans are, what the costs are, how much or little they cover. It is simple as making a phone call 402-614-3389. A quote will not cost you anything, but you will have some real, solid information for your decision making process. Take a couple minutes, answer a few questions, and you will be surprised how easily you can find out what you should do about your Medicare @ OmahaInsuranceSolutions.com.
You may have been caught up in the recent political circus on TV and missed the political power play behind the scenes. Congress voted to eliminate a Medicare supplement that provides first dollar coverage. (First dollar coverage means you pay no co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. Medicare and the Medicare supplement pay everything.) This will change everything about how you approach your Medicare, and it is a cause for re-evaluation of your Medicare Supplement plan.
Congress’s change potentially creates a problem for beneficiaries who have a Plan F supplement. Or, at least, it is reason for re-evaluation. There are other supplement plans, but which one should you choose?
Congress Tinkers with Medicare Supplement
Congress is constantly trying to fund government programs. The balancing act is to generate sufficient revenue to pay for adequate benefits without over burdening the taxpayer. Congress discovered that Medicare beneficiaries who do not pay any co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles unnecessarily over use the medical system and consequently Medicare. The Medicare Trust Fund is stressed to the breaking point. Congress found that beneficiaries who pay co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance do not over use the medical system. Their solution is to stop first dollar coverage. That means, supplement plans cannot pay everything. Beneficiaries must pay some kind of co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance. There must be some disincentive to over using the system.
Medicare Supplement Plan F Going Away
The Medicare supplement plan that covers all co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance is Plan F. You will not be able to purchase a new Plan F after December 2019. Those who have Plan F will be grandfathered in and may keep the plan. The consequence of this change is that no new beneficiaries will be joining Plan F. Insurance is built upon pools of people. Of the 10,000 people turning 65 each day in the U.S., no one will be purchasing Plan F’s after 2019. Those who have Plan F will age and die, reducing the number of persons who pay premiums. If there are fewer people paying in less premium but more and larger medical claims being paid out, the insurance company will be forced to raise rates on the existing members of the plan to keep the plan viable. While it is hard to know the future, it would be hard to say Plan F’s future will be positive after 2019.
Plan G is the New Plan F
The next plan up is Plan G. The two differences between Plan F and G are: you pay the Part B deductible, which is currently $166. It is a one time annual deductible. After you pay the Part B deductible of $166, there are no more co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance for the year. Everything will be covered 100%. Second, Plan G premium is noticeably less than Plan F’s. The other point of interest is that Plan G’s have fewer and smaller rate increases than Plan F’s.
Shrinking Pool of Insured
Medicare trustees are trying to slow the drain on the trust fund. Eliminating first dollar coverage that Plan F’s afford was the solution. The problem is that no new members will join the pool of insured who have Plan F. Traditionally, insurance companies raise premium rates when the pools of people who pay premiums becomes smaller. Plan F members will be forced to look other places for more affordable coverage. Plan G will likely become the new Plan F.
You may wish to reconsider your supplement plan if it is Plan F. The ground is shifting. Visit OmahaInsuranceSolutions.com for the most current education on Medicare.