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Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part C is another way to receive Medicare.  “Original Medicare” is a combination of Medicare Part A and Part B.  It is called “Original Medicare” because that was its first plan in the late 60’s.  Medicare Part A was hospital insurance and Medicare Part B was added later.  It included doctor visits and outpatient procedures.  Some people call it traditional Medicare.  It became “Original Medicare” when a new form of Medicare was created–Medicare Advantage, also called Medicare Part C.  What is the advantage of Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare?

The Advantage of Medicare Advantage vs Original Medicare

Let’s explain “Original Medicare” first.  Medicare Part A covers hospital stays.  The Part A has a deductible.  It is currently $1,340 for every hospital stay for the same event in a 60 day period.  If a completely unrelated event lands you in the hospital, e.g., car accident, heart attack, stroke, etc., even within the first events 60-day period, you will still pay the $1,340 deductible for those unrelated events.  That kind of deductible schedule could add up to a significant cash outlay in a year.  Likewise, Medicare Part B exposes you to a great deal of risk.    While Medicare Part B pays 80% of doctor and outpatient costs, your 20% co-insurance has no cap on it.  There is no maximum out-of-pocket.  Sky is the limit.  If you have a million dollars worth of bills under Part B, 20% is $200,000.

Advantage of Medicare AdvantageMaximum Out-Of-Pocket

The Advantage of Medicare Advantage is a maximum out-of-pocket.  The highest maximum out-of-pocket for Medicare Advantage plans in 2018 is $6,700.  Some plans maximum out-of-pocket are much less, depending on the area, the company, and the type of plan.  However, the easiest and clearest difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage is a definite limit on what you pay out of your pocket.  Medicare Advantage has a maximum out-of-pocket.  Original Medicare does not.

Minimum Co-Payments

Each Medicare Advantage Plan has its own schedule of co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance.  One co-pay that is standardized in all plans is the emergency room visit.  In 2018, the emergency room visit co-pay is $80.  I would rather pay $80 with a Medicare Advantage plan rather than 20% of any amount on Original Medicare.  I broke my arm a number of years ago biking.  My emergency room visit was $3,000.  The advantage of Medicare Advantage I think is an $80 co-pay rather than 20% bill–$3,000 x 20% = $600.

Advantage of Medicare AdvantagePart D Prescription Drug Included

With Original Medicare, you still need to get a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, even if you don’t take any medications.  Otherwise, you will be penalized when you eventually do enroll in a Medicare Part D plan.  The Part D plan is generally included in a Medicare Advantage plan at zero or little cost.  If you purchase a Part D plan, you may pay between $21–$100 per month.  The advantage of Medicare Advantage is paying zero or very little for your drug plan.

 

Vision and Dental

MoAdvantage of Medicare Advantagest Medicare Advantage plans have additional benefits, such as vision, dental, and over the counter items.  How would you like to get your teeth cleaned twice a year at zero cost?  That is all most people are interested in when it comes to dental usually.  They don’t want to spend $50 a month on a dental plan when cleanings are all they really want or need.

Compared to Original Medicare, the advantage of Medicare Advantage makes complete sense.  It limits your maximum out-of-pocket, combines Part D at little or no cost most times, includes extra benefits, like dental and vision.  There are usually many plans in your area.  Here is Omaha there are eleven Medicare Advantage plans among five insurance companies.  You should be able to find something that fits your needs among that variety.  Call us to find out 402-614-3389.

 

 

 

Medicare Advantage Growing

Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part C is an alternative to traditional or original Medicare.  While the majority of Medicare beneficiaries are still on original Medicare, Medicare Advantage has grown to 31% of all Medicare beneficiaries, which is triple the number from only twelve years ago.  In Nebraska the number of Medicare beneficiaries in a Medicare Advantage plan is 12% and growing each year.  The percentage would be much higher if Nebraska had a higher population density.  The success of the Medicare Advantage plans depends upon concentrated pools of beneficiaries which is a challenge because the majority of Nebraska is rural.  Though Medicare Advantage is growing, consistent concerns continue to arise.  People may wish to consider something to backup Medicare Advantage.

Backup Medicare Advantage

Backup Medicare AdvantageMedicare Advantage is “a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Part A and Part B benefits.”  The co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance is set up differently from original Medicare.  Like original Medicare, there are co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance.  While many Medicare beneficiaries chose to backup their Medicare Part A and Part B with a supplement, most people on Medicare Advantage plans chose not to purchase any additional insurance.  They don’t backup Medicare Advantage.  The reasons may be because co-pays are minimal.  Medicare Advantage also has a maximum out-of-pocket where original Medicare does not.  Still, people on Medicare Advantage do have concerns about serious illness and possible large co-pays, such as from a hospital stay.  They may wish to backup Medicare Advantage, but they don’t know how.

Cover Co-Pays and Deductible

Backup Medicare AdvantageA possible solution to backup Medicare Advantage would be to add an indemnity plan.  Indemnity plans are not health insurance.  They are insurance plans that reimburse clients for certain specified events.  For example, insurance company ABC will pay $500 each day you are in the hospital for a total of ten days.  The money paid is to the policy holder to use as he or she wishes, not to the hospital or another insurance company.  Indemnity plans may pay for skilled nursing stays past the 21st day when the co-pay is added.  A stroke could require prolonged stays in a nursing home.  A skilled nursing facility co-pay from day 21-57 could be as high as $160 per day.  Most indemnity plans have options for cancer treatment too.  The indemnity plan could reimburse several hundred dollars per treatment to compensate for high co-pays or just present a one-time lump sum, such as $5,000 or $10,000 for an occurrence of cancer.

Indemnity plans could be a nice way to fill in the gaps to a Medicare Advantage plan, and they could be a great addition to Medicare supplements or health plans in general.  Medicare and health insurance only pays for medical cost that are incurred from approved medically necessary treatments.  Heart attacks, strokes, and cancer come with many other non-medical expenses.  You may need assistance at home after a stroke that neither Medicare or your health plan cover.  Transportation to doctors’ offices are an expense because you cannot safely drive.  Wages are lost when your illness prevents you from going to work.  Health care costs go beyond the doctor and hospital bills.  Indemnity plans may help off set the losses due to illness.

Health insurance is like a puzzle.  There are many pieces and different sizes.  They can be put together in a multiplicity of ways.  They best way to put the puzzle together is to get all the pieces out on the table and see what fits together the best.  If you have gone the way of Medicare Advantage, it may be beneficial to backup your Medicare Advantage plan.  We can help you see how the puzzle works at Omaha Insurance Solutions 402-614-3389.

 

 

What is Medicare?  A basic question.  Or rather, why should anyone care about Medicare?   The reason people should care is that most bankruptcies are medical bankruptcies.  In other words, if you wish to protect your retirement nest egg from bill collectors, Medicare is important to know about.  There are few things that are more disturbing than a pile of medical bills sitting on the kitchen table.  The golden years could be tarnished with worrying about actual or potential medical expenses.  Medicare–if implemented proper–will protect you from a potential catastrophe.  It is critical for people entering into retirement to understand what is Medicare.

What is Medicare?

What is MedicareMedicare is a Federal health insurance program for people who are 65 and older (or on Social Security disability).  It began in 1965 when President Johnson signed it into law.  It was designed to provide medical covered to the elderly at a reasonable price.  In 1965, few people had health coverage once they stopped working.  As a result, many seniors fell into poverty because of burdensome medical expenses.  Medicare was a solution to a national problem.

Medicare Part A

Medicare is divided into two parts: Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B.  Medicare Part A has everything to do with the hospital.  It doesn’t cost anything because you paid for it during your working years.  It was one of the deductions in your payroll taxes.  Medicare Part A covers a 100% of the medical expenses incurred in the hospital, but there is deductible that many people are not aware of.  The Medicare Part A deductible is currently $1,288.  This is NOT an annual deductible.  It is a deductible per benefit period, and a benefit period is 60 days.  So each event has a deductible, and the time for the event is 60 days.  In other words, you could have multiple events and pay multiple deductibles because the event is not limited to just a 60 day period.  Each new event, even if it overlaps with another event, has its own 60 day timeline.  While rare, it could happen, and probably more importantly, you could pay the Part A $1,288 deductible more than once in any given year.

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B, however, does cost something.  For most people going on Medicare and Social Security in 2016, the Medicare Part B premium is $121.80 per month.  It is generally taken out of your Social Security check.  Medicare Part B covers doctors’ visits and outpatient procedures, such as X-rays, blood work, emergency room visits, etc.  Medicare Part B covers 80% of the cost.  Your portion is 20%.  The 20% coinsurance, however, is unusual.  There is no cap.  There is no maximum out-of-pocket.  Most group plans you were ever on probably had a maximum out-of-pocket.  It may have been $1,000, $2,000, even $10,000, but at some point, you stopped paying and the insurance company covered everything.  Medicare Part B does not have that, so 20% of a big number will be a big number.  You keep paying your 20% coinsurance as long as the bills come in.

These are the basic building blocks to what is Medicare.  You must understand Medicare, Medicare Part A, and Medicare Part B to understand the rest that follows.  In the next blogs and videos, we will cover how to get Medicare, how to cover the Part A deductible, and how to fill the unlimited 20% gap in Part B coverage.

Delay Medicare Enrollment

Many people work past 65.  They continue on with them employer group coverage.  They delay Medicare enrollment.  At 66+, they wonder what to do about Medicare.

How to Enroll after 65

Here is what to do.  Go to Medicare.gov.  Click on “Forms, Help, Resources” on the top right. Then click on “Medicare Forms” on the left middle.  You will see the enrollment forms in the middle of the page in PDF form.  There are two forms: one to enroll in Medicare Part B and a second for your employer to sign off on your coverage.  You fill out the enrollment in Part B.  Give the second form to your employer.  Your employer will verify that you have had health coverage as good as Medicare since you turned 65.  They will sign the form.  It is important for you to write in the date that you wish your Medicare Part B to start.  Give yourself enough time to find a Medicare plan and prescription drug plan.  (There are much shorter and restrictive time limits when you have delayed Medicare Part B enrollment.)  Drop the forms in the mail or hand deliver them to the local Social Security office.

Medicare Employer Enrollment Forms

Why do you want to involve your employer with your enrollment in Medicare Part B?  If you do not have your employer verify that you had health coverage from the time you could have enrolled in Medicare until the time you did take Part B, Medicare will assume you did not have creditable coverage and will asset a penalty.  The penalty is a 10% increase in Part B premium for every year you did not have coverage.  That can be significant over time and completely unnecessary.  Delay Medicare enrollment at your own risk.  Get the form.  Your employer is required to verify.  The human resource department will know exactly what to do.  It is a very simple matter.

At Omaha Insurance Solutions, we help clients who delay Medicare enrollment all the time.  We can get this done quickly and easily.  Give us a call 402-614-3389.  We can email you the forms, walk you through filling them out, and explain what to do.

 

A distressed prospective client told me that Medicare did not cover mental health treatment.  I stammered a bit because the subject had never come up before,  and I was surprised.  I said that it did.  She had read that it only covered a one time welcome visit to Medicare.  I then showed her in the Medicare & You Handbook on pages 40 and 59 where it detailed the coverage.  There is the welcome to Medicare screening, an annual screening, and complete medical coverage.  She was surprised and relieved there was Medicare mental health care.

Seniors Need Mental Health Care

Mental health is a serious problem in society, and it is growing among seniors.  The World Health Organization documents how important among seniors this issue is.   Depression is under reported, little recognized, and often an untreated illness; but Medicare mental health cares for beneficiaries with mental health concerns, like depression.  It probably does it better than most employer plans do.

Medicare Mental Health Part A

Medicare Part A deals with the hospital.  The same rules around hospital deductibles and co-insurance apply to psychiatric hospitals as to other hospitals.  There is, however, one difference.  Medicare only allows a lifetime amount of 190 days for  a stand alone psychiatric hospitals.

Medicare Mental Health Part B

Medicare Part B covers psychiatrists, counselors, treatment groups.  Again the same 20% co-insurance applies as to any other Part B doctor visit.  If you have a long standing relationship with a psychologists before Medicare, you may keep that relationship going after you go on Medicare if the medical professional takes assignment for Medicare.

Medicare Supplements will cover Medicare mental health issues and professionals the same as other fees in accordance with your particular Medicare supplement plan.  Medicare Advantage will have the same co-pays for psychiatrists and psychologists as for other specialists.

No need to be stressed or depressed about Medicare mental health.  You are covered.

A gentleman called me who was losing his group health coverage from a former employer. He was a retiree from a Fortune 100 company. You would recognize the name of the company immediately. As part of his retirement package, he had a very generous health plan for himself and his wife. He had been on it for decades, but the company could no longer afford to maintain it. They canceled the plan, so my client found himself cast out into the Medigap world at 92 not knowing what to do, and he didn’t realize that he would need a Medigap guarantee issue to be get a plan.

Medigap Guarantee Issue Solution

When you are a Medicare beneficiary and you loss group coverage, you have what is called a guarantee issue period. It is a very limited opportunity that has an exasperation date on it. It is an incredibly important guarantee for those who have pre-existing conditions.

What is Medigap Guarantee Issue?

What is guarantee issue for a Medigap policy? How does it work?  What should you do to make sure you don’t miss out?  Guarantee issue for a Medigap policy applies to a number of situations.  I will just speak to one—when you involuntarily lose your group health coverage while on Medicare Part A & B.  Guarantee issue means that an insurance company must offer you a Medigap plan—usually plans A, B, C, & F—without asking health questions.  They must sell it to you no matter your health condition.  For those with pre-existing conditions that would exclude them, this is a treasure.  (Each state may handle guarantee issue situations somewhat differently, but this is the general concept.)

Medigap Guarantee IssueHow Does Medigap Guarantee Issue Work?

How does guarantee issue work for a Medigap policy when you have involuntarily lost your group health coverage? The company that is ending group health coverage will usually give you sufficient time to find other coverage. You are able to purchase a supplement as early as 90 days ahead of time. After coverage has ended, you usually only have 63 days to find coverage without going through underwriting. If you miss that time frame and you have a serious health issue, you will not find a Medigap policy. You will only have Medicare.

What Should You Do to Get Your Medigap Guarantee Issue?

What should you do if you are losing your group plan that covers your Medicare deductibles and coinsurance? First get educated about Medicare. Second get a quote and start looking for a Medigap plan. Third see if you can pass underwriting so you are not restricted to the more expensive plans, but please don’t doddle. There is a clock ticking in terms of your guaranteed issue period.

To summarize, you have a special opportunity to get a Medigap plan when you lose your group plan. The special opportunity is that you do not have to answer health questions for a defined period and the insurance company has to sell you a plan. You need to be aware of the rules and follow them so you do not miss out. Still try underwriting so you have more options, but you have the guarantee provision to fall back on.  There are rules and time limits around guaranteed issues. Make sure you fully understand these rules and the ramifications. Call to find out the facts so you don’t miss out. 402-614-3389 OmahaInsuranceSolutions.com

I quoted a prospective client a Medicare supplement rate that was significantly less than the plan he was currently on. I mentioned that he needed to answer health questions.  He would have to go through underwriting because he was no longer in his Open Enrollment. He was upset and said no way. I asked why. He told me about when he applied for life insurance. He went through the underwriting process. A nurse came to his home, weighed and measured him, took blood and urine, asked a bunch of questions. Then they had to get reports from the various doctors. One of the doctors had to write a letter about a particular health issue. The whole process was long, involved, and intrusive. There was no amount of money that could induce him to go through it again. When I said I could probably do the Medicare supplement underwriting in sixty seconds or less, his tone changed.

Medicare Supplement Underwriting

underwriting-services

So what is underwriting? It is a simple process that insurance companies use to find out about you and your health. You don’t have to go to your doctor to be poked or prodded. The whole process can be done with a few questions in person or over the phone. It is a set of basic health questions that you answer.

What are the health questions? Let me group them into four categories: knock out questions, height & weight, current issues, smoking/non-smoking.

What does Medicare Supplement Underwriting look like?

What are knock out questions? They are questions that have to do with serious medical conditions. In other words, if you have this serious medical condition, you are ineligible for a Medicare supplement. You are knocked out of consideration. Now to clarify, you can’t be denied Medicare, but a private insurance company can deny coverage for a supplement outside of your Open Enrollment Period.

Medicare Supplement UnderwritingWhat are some examples of knock out questions? Are you currently confined to a wheel chair, nursing facility, or hospital bed? Do you currently receive assistance bathing, transferring, toileting, eating, dressing or need the assistance of a walker? In the last two years, have you received treatment for cancer, leukemia, heart attack, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, chronic kidney disease, diabetes with hypertension, stroke, etc.?

The second category of questions has to do with height and weight. This is always a difficult question. If I asked my wife her weight, it would be very quiet and cold in the Grimmond house hold for a while. Fortunately, I have never been thrown out of anyone’s home or had things thrown at me when I ask that questions. Height and weight is an important determiner of future health, so it has an impact on price.

The third category is current issues. For example, you may have a diagnosis for a future treatment, like a knee replacement or cataract surgery. An insurance company will want you to take care of that before you change supplements, or they just won’t cover that procedure for the first six months. You may have respiratory issues in the past that do not exclude you now, but if you are currently being treated for the issue, that could prevent you from getting the supplement for a time.

The fourth category is smoker or non-smoker. That one should be obvious. There is plenty of medical evidence about the health risks associated with smoking. Smoking also includes chewing. I met with a gentleman who described himself as a non-smoker, but when I pointed out he had a circle print on his back jean pocket, he fessed up that he dipped—on occasion. That is still considered a smoker—tobacco user. Same thing, as far as the insurance company is concerned. Smoker/Non-smoker is the one health question that can be asked during Open Enrollment.

Medicare Supplement Underwriting is Easy

Why does this matter to you? Because your answers determine whether the insurance company accepts or denies you. It determines your health category and consequently your monthly premium.  Underwriting is not a difficult or a daunting task with a skilled insurance agent. It just takes a few minutes of your time, and you may be able to save yourself some money and maybe improve your coverage as well.   The key thing to understand is that not all insurance companies have the same underwriting guidelines. Some may be laxer or more restrictive than others. They may be lenient on one condition or more severe on another. That is when an experienced agent can help you with getting the best outcome for your underwriting. He can guide you to the company that will be most favorable to your condition for the best possible price.  Call OmahaInsuranceSolutions.com  402-614-3389  for help with your Medicare Supplement underwriting.

A prospective client called me about saving money on her Medicare supplement. I asked her the basic supplement health questions and gave a quote.  We set up a time to meet.  At the meeting, I started going through the standard health questions on the application.  When I came to the question about recommended future treatments, she said no, but the way she answered bothered me.  So I asked it a different way.  “Did the doctor suggest that you have anything done, like cataract surgery, knee or hip replacement?”  Then she lit up.  “My hips are really bad,” she said.  “He thinks I should replace them sometime.”  “So when you say sometime, are you talking about in a year or two?”  “Oh no,” she said.  “In the next couple of months.”  I closed my notebook.  We were done.

Supplement Health Questions Broken Down

Recommended treatments by a physician could potentially cause a problem when you switch supplements.  Three things to know: 1.) what is a recommended treatment, 2.) why does it matter, 3.) what should you do about it.

Most of the time when we see the doctor it is because we are sick right now. She makes a diagnosis and recommends an immediate treatment.  ‘Take this pill now.’  ‘Have open heart surgery next week.’  Sometimes the diagnosis leads to a recommendation for treatment sometime in the future. ‘Your knees are deteriorating.  You should have a knee replacement in the next year or so.’  When your doctor puts a recommendation in your medical records for a future treatment, that is a big deal. To an insurance company, that means there will be a future big bill for whoever is insuring you at that time.

Understand the Supplement Health Questions

shutterstock_279874211-300x274The problem is that you could get stuck with the bill instead of the insurance company if you don’t follow the rules. If you have something done that was recommend before you got the new policy, like cataract surgery within six months after getting a new Medicare Supplement, the insurance company will probably not pay their share of the expense.  The health questions in the application are designed to disclose recommended treats and prevent the new insurance company from getting stuck with the bill.  They would likely refuse payment and call for doctor’s records to see if there was a recommendation for treatment before you signed the application.  After six months, you are less likely to have any trouble.  They cannot hold back paying for treatment indefinitely.  The bottom line is, if you have any recommended treatments, finish them up before switching supplements.

Manage the Supplement Health Questions

b3c84bb379d3466025bbe2c14b628151This problem, of course, can be avoided. Check with your doctor.  See if he is recommending any treatments and see if he put that in your medical records.  Check with the insurance company if you recently switched supplements. Doctor’s offices will not usually check with an insurance company on a supplement because they will assume the insurance company will pay when Medicare pays.  If you recently switched supplements, call and ask ahead of time if there will be any issues about a procedure.  It is always good to cross your T’s and dot your I’s when it comes to new insurance plans.

Ask an Expert about Supplement Health Questions

A mistake around a recommended treatment when changing Medicare supplements could result in bills to you for thousands of dollars. Know whether you have any recommendations from a physician for future treatments in your records.  Understand what that means in relationship to a new Medicare supplement.  Talk with someone who can ask you the right questions when you are making a change to your supplement coverage 402-614-3389OmahaInsuranceSolutions.com

 

My mother went to the doctor for her routine physical in Nov of 2011.  The tests came back with stage four ovarian cancer.  We were stunned.  Mom put up a valiant fight, but the cancer ultimately took her life.

The C-word is a scary word.  I don’t know your relationship to the C-word.  I don’t know if you have had cancer or a family member and/or friend has had cancer.  I don’t know if your friend died, recovered, or is still struggling.  It is a word that incites intense anxiety.

That is why I suggest you ask yourself a number of serious questions about your Medicare health coverage as it pertains to the Omaha, Lincoln, and Council Bluffs metro area.  How much risk are you willing to assume?  How much risk would you prefer to pass on to another?  Because the cost of cancer is high, not only emotionally in terms of pain and lost, it is definitely costly in medical expense.

Medicare Cancer Omaha Metro Area–There are three questions to ask yourself about Medicare and cancer treatment in the Omaha metro area.  1) How likely do you think it is that you could contract cancer?  2) How much will cancer treatment cost?  3) How much will you have to pay out of your pocket for treatment?

untitledThe American Cancer Society says that the elderly are 10 times more likely than younger people to get cancer.  Medicare beneficiaries over age 65 account for 54% of all new cancer cases.  Cancer is the leading cause of death among the elderly.  While those are generalizations, you can further add your own analysis to the formula if you have had cancer yourself.  Cancer among family members raises your chance of you contracting cancer.  The reality is that there is a probability that you may develop cancer during your time on Medicare.

chemotherapy_mainThe second question to consider is cost.  There is no one number for the cost of cancer.  It depends on the type of cancer, the number of treatments, where the treatments are done, etc.  But there are ranges.  A study by Avalere Health gives prices as low as $25,000 to as high as $45,000 for chemotherapy.  How does that number hit you?

The third question to consider is how much does Medicare cover?  Medicare and Medicare Advantage generally will cover 80% of the cost.  Your co-insurance would be 20%.  Chemotherapy generally will fall under the outpatient procedures.  Without a Medicare Supplement, twenty percent of a large number will still be a large number for most people.  Twenty percent of $45,000 is $9,000.  Is that something you can afford?

roulette-wheel-350I love James Bond movies.  I thought it was cool when 007 sat down at the Roulette table across from the pretty girl, but would you want to place the price of your health care up for a spin of the wheel?  There are 37 slots in the wheel numbered 0-36.  They are also divided among red and black.  It is much easier to predict a color than an individual number.  Most of the time the house wins, but people keep playing!  It is incredible.  Put it all, however, in reverse.  Most people will not get cancer, though some will.  Do you want to spin the wheel and take your chances that you won’t end up with back breaking bills, or do you want to off load the problem?  There is a solution that will take the wheel away.  You could purchase a Medicare Supplement that will come in and cover the 20% that Medicare does not.  You then can go to any of the excellent medical systems we have in the Omaha, Lincoln, and Council Bluffs metro area or anywhere in the country without concern about costs.

My mother died February 4, 2013.  We worried a lot during her illness.  There was fear, pain, and grief, but there was no worry about medical bills.  She had prepared.

RIP Mom.

Medicare Cancer Omaha Metro Area

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Chris has been our insurance agent for five years. He made the whole Medicare process easy to understand and paid attention to every detail to tailor a program that would be a best fit for us. If we have a question or issue, Chris responds back immediately! He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with! We highly recommend Chris for all your Medicare and Insurance needs.

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