Medicare Supplement Savings: 10 Things You Need To Know
1) You don’t have to wait for AEP (Annual Election Period) to change Medigap plans.
It’s widely thought that Medicare Supplements can only be changed during the Annual Election Period beginning in October. One of the perks of having a Medicare Supplement is that you have the freedom to change Medigap Plans anytime throughout the year. The Annual Election Period is a time established to allow Medicare Beneficiaries to make changes to Part D (prescription drug plan) or Medicare Advantage Plans for the following year.
2) Discounts aren’t available in October when AEP begins
Perhaps some people believe they will get a better deal by waiting until October when AEP begins…like Black Friday after Thanksgiving. This is not the case. Insurance companies do not lower premiums or give discounts during the Annual Election Period. They actually have to file rate changes with the Department of Insurance and once that is approved, their rates usually stay in effect for at least a year.
One of our clients, Mr. D, has a Medicare Supplement in Kansas. He was notified in April from his major insurance carrier that he was going to get another rate increase which would make his premium a very uncomfortable $220 a month.
When speaking to Mr. D a month earlier, he was hesitant to change because the insurance company treated him well. This most recent rate increase, however, made him rethink how the insurance company was treating him. He realized it was time to take care of himself and his budget. He changed his Plan F to another insurance company and reduced his premium to $154 a month. His new Medicare Plan F became effective May 1. By taking action, this kept a nice $66 a month in his pocket.
Had he waited until October to see if there would be a better deal, he would of given the insurance company an extra $330 during that time. Even better…Mr. D’s new Medicare Part F rate is locked for one year and he is saving $792 over a twelve month period.
3) October through December is a busy time for insurance companies
Insurance companies want your business and they’ll gladly take it October through December; however, they are slammed with Medicare business because of AEP. For Medicare Beneficiaries who have Medicare Advantage Plans, this is their annual opportunity to make a change for the following year.
In addition, many people are also changing their Part D (prescription drug) plans during this time period as well. This puts a lot of stress on the insurance companies. Some carriers handle the extra business seamlessly, while others (including the major carriers) take extra time to process applications.
If you would like to replace your Medicare Supplement plan and want an effective date for the first day of the following month, timing is everything.
The Medicare Supplement application, in most cases, has to be approved with the medical underwriting department. During the months of October, November and December, this process can take longer than usual and alter your effective date.
An insurance agent who specializes in Medicare Supplement insurance should know how to properly guide you through the process if you want to make a change during this time period.
4) Independent insurance agents know the market
Independent insurance agents have a leg up on the Medicare Supplement market. Why is that? Independent insurance agents, such as myself, are not employees of the insurance company. We work for you…that’s our priority. This means we are constantly looking for companies that will benefit our clients. We know that one size does not fit all. Every individual is unique with their health qualifications, how much premium they can afford, and what benefits they desire.
How can you benefit from working with an independent agent? When looking for a Medicare Supplement policy, an independent insurance agent will be able to shop the market and show you what is available in your area. Because we are not locked into one insurance company and their premiums, we can offer you choices.
What about just contacting the insurance company directly and not using an agent? Consumers are inundated with marketing information from major insurance carriers. This mass marketing technique can lead people to believe that there are only a few insurance companies that offer Medicare Supplement insurance. With this belief, people will call the insurance company directly. While this may seem convenient, it is often more expensive.
Also keep in mind that most insurance companies do not make their premiums available to the public and will only work with a licensed insurance agent. This helps keep their premiums low because they are not marketing all over the TV, internet, billboards, etc. The best part is…their Plan F, Plan G, or Plan N is the same exact Plan F, Plan G, or Plan N with the major carrier…just less money.
5) You will not lose your Medicare Part B deductible.
A common misconception is that if you’ve paid your Part B deductible you will have to pay it again if you change your Medicare Supplement during the year. Your Medicare Part B deductible is a Medicare deductible not a deductible from the insurance company. It does not matter if you’ve paid it in full or partially paid it, you can still change Medigap Plans.
For example, if you change from Medigap Plan F to Medigap Plan G in the same calendar year and the Part B deductible has already been met with Plan F, then you do not have to pay it again when you move to Plan G. As it does every January, the Medicare Part B deductible will reset at the beginning of the year.
6) Medicare recipients are entitled to change plans anytime.
In the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) booklet: Choosing a Medigap Policy Guide, CMS shares information in a section titled People Who Already Have a Medigap Policy. This section reiterates that if you already have a Medicare Supplement policy, you have the right to purchase a new policy any time you desire. Some reasons you may want to switch to a new Medigap Policy are:
- As a Medicare recipient, you are paying for benefits you don’t need or you need more benefits than you needed before.
- Another reason to replace your Medigap Policy may be that you just want to change your insurance company but keep your same benefits.
The most popular reason for changing an insurance company is because you want to find a policy that’s less expensive while still keeping the same benefits. CMS points out that this can be done any time, just make sure you are comparing the same policy (for example, Plan F with one insurance company to Plan F with another insurance company).
7) Waiting to see what happens with your premium can be costly.
Some Medicare recipients like to wait and see what will happen during AEP. As a person who isn’t always keen on change, I sometimes understand why people like to play the wait and see game. However, as a Medicare Supplement Specialist I see first hand how beneficial it is to review your premium often and make changes when needed. So when people tell me they want to wait until the Annual Election Period to see “what will happen”, I cringe a little bit. Just to let you know, nothing exciting will happen from October through December…you will not miss out on anything. Your Medicare Supplement insurance company is not going to call you up and give you a huge premium reduction.
8) Health issues may compromise your ability to change Medigap Plans.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what the future holds. While today you may be a picture of good health, tomorrow could be the day a significant health issue arises. Too many times I’ve heard people say, “I’m in good health and my Medicare Supplement pays all my bills…I don’t need to change”.
It does feel good to stay in your comfort zone and not upset the apple cart…I understand that feeling. But quite honestly, having a periodic review of your Medicare Supplement policy is not going to shake things up in a negative manner. It will just give you some perspective on where your plan stands. If you decide to keep paying the higher monthly premium, then you risk being stuck with that ever increasing rate.
How do you get stuck with a high premium? Your health is changing as you get older. It’s a fact of life. If you have a stroke, become diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or have complications associated with diabetes, the chances of lowering your Medigap premium become slim to none. These, of course, are just a few examples of health conditions that cause declines on insurance applications. All insurance companies have their own list of health questions, but if you can’t answer them appropriately then your only choice is to stay with your current insurance company and their ever increasing high premium. Are you comfortable with the thought of what the long term effect might be if you keep that high Medicare Supplement premium?
9) You will get another rate increase either way.
If you already have a high premium and are waiting to see what the next rate increase is going to be, then you are giving extra money each month to the insurance company just to find out you will be giving them more. Sometimes I hear people comment about how they are going to get a rate increase either way. Yes, that is true. You will usually get an annual rate increase with most insurance companies, but your rate is still going to be lower if you reduce your Medicare Supplement premium.
Which would you prefer?
$189.35 Medigap Plan F monthly premium gets a 7% annual rate increase. This increases the Medicare Supplement premium to $202.60.
$147.10 Medigap Plan F monthly premium receives a 7% rate increase. This increases the Medicare Supplement premium to $157.39.
10) Indecision can be expensive.
I have been in touch with Mr. M several times. He has a Medicare Supplement plan in West Virginia with a major insurance company that has been raising his premium (sometimes twice a year) and it has now reached $210 a month.
Mr. M is not comfortable with change. He thinks it will be a hassle to move his Plan F to another insurance carrier. He thinks he should wait to see what his rate will be when his policy renews. I think it’s safe to say that his policy is still going to be over $200 a month.
If Mr. M took action and changed his Plan F to another insurance company, his new rate could be as low as $158 a month for a 73 year young male. But since he wants to wait, he will pay the insurance company an extra $68 a month.
Contact us today and see how easy it is to get significant Medicare Supplement savings.
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