2019 Medicare Deductibles, Coinsurance, and Out-Of-Pocket Limits

The new 2019 Medicare deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits were recently released, and they go into effect on January 1st, 2019.

January 2019

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

  • Part A Deductible: This deductible is increasing $24 to $1,364 per benefit period.
  • Part A Coinsurance: Inpatient Hospital Care (Days 61-90). Increasing $6 to $341 per day.
  • Lifetime Reserve Coinsurance: Inpatient Hospital Care (Days 91-150). Increasing $12 to $682 per day.
  • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Coinsurance: (Days 21 through 100) Increasing $3 to $170.50 per day.

NOTE: A benefit period begins on the first day you receive service as an inpatient in a hospital and ends after you have been out of the hospital and not received skilled care in any other facility for 60 days in a row. This is not an annual deductible; there can be multiple benefit periods (up to six) in a calendar year!

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

  • Part B Annual Deductible: Increasing $2 to $185 per year.

NOTE: For those of you with a Plan G Medicare Supplement (also known as Medigap because it picks up the gap in coverage not covered by Medicare), Plan G is identical to Plan F with the exception of the Part B deductible. Once this deductible has been met, Plan F and Plan G are exactly the same. If you are saving more than $185 per year on your premiums by switching from Plan F to Plan G, then Plan G ends up costing less than Plan F.

Medicare Supplement Plan-Specific Deductibles and Out-of-Pocket  Limits

  • High Deductible Plan F Annual Deductible: Increasing $60 to $2,300 per calendar year.
  • Plan K Annual Out-of-Pocket Limit: Increasing $320 to $5,560 per calendar year.
  • Plan L Annual Out-of-Pocket Limit: Increasing $160 to $2,780 per calendar year.

Part D Prescription Drug Plans

The new 2019 Part D deductible is $415 once a year.

How Do These Changes Affect My Medicare Supplement?

If you have a Medicare Supplement, your benefits are automatically adjusted every year to cover the new deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance amounts in 2019.

Do You Have a Medicare Supplement Plan?

If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, contact me for a free quote! As an independent insurance agent, I work with all the major insurance carriers, and more than likely, I can save you hundreds of dollars on your Medicare Supplement premiums for the same exact plan and coverage!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

Thanks!

Ron Lewis

Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
www.MedigapExpress.com

How to Reach a Live Person at the IRS!

Although the topic of this blog isn’t specifically insurance-related, I thought I’d pass this information on as a “public service announcement.”

IRS

Fortunately, I don’t usually have to call or deal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) much, but something unexpected came up with my social security, and I had to call the IRS. I was literally on the phone for hours pushing buttons and listening to a myriad of endless options. I was unable to speak with a live person, which is why I called in the first place.

Finally, out of frustration, I tried googling different ways to contact the IRS, and I found that a lot of other people were having the same problem that I was having. It seems that the IRS wants to make it as difficult as possible for someone to be able to reach one of their phone representatives.

IRS2

I know that most people don’t need to call the IRS on a frequent basis, but in case you ever need to call them, here are the steps that you need to follow to actually speak with a real live human being at the IRS:

  1. Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 between the hours of 7 AM – 7 PM local time, Monday through Friday.
  2. Choose your language.
  3. Choose option 2 for “personal income tax.” (Do NOT choose option 1 for refund information. If you choose refund information, it will send you to an automated phone line.)
  4. Press 1 for “form, tax history, or payment.”
  5. Press 3 “for all other questions.”
  6. Press 2 for “all other questions.”
  7. When asked to enter your social security number (SSN) or employment identification number (EIN) to access your account information, don’t enter anything. (After it asks you twice, you will get another menu.)
  8. Press 2 for “personal or individual tax questions.”
  9. After that, you should be transferred to an IRS agent.

I also tried calling a couple of “local” IRS offices, but it was just as challenging trying to talk with a live person. I tried the steps shown above, and they work! I hope that you don’t have to call or deal with the IRS, but if you need to call them, I think that you will find these steps to be helpful.

You can also access a lot of useful information on the IRS website, which is www.irs.gov.

medicare-supplement-piece-1

Do You Have a Medicare Supplement Plan?

If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, contact me for a free quote! As an independent insurance agent, I work with all the major insurance carriers, and more than likely, I can save you hundreds of dollars on your Medicare Supplement premiums for the same exact plan and coverage!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

Thanks!

Ron Lewis

Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
www.MedigapExpress.com

Why You Should Replace Your Medicare Advantage Plan with a Medicare Supplement

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which is from October 15th through December 7th each year, is almost here!

If you currently have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you should switch back to Original Medicare and get a Medicare Supplement plan instead!

IMPORTANT: If you have a Medicare Supplement plan (aka “Medigap” because it picks up the “gap” in Medicare coverage) the AEP does not apply to you unless you want to enroll in or change your Prescription Drug Plan (PDP).

Why Medicare Supplement Plans Are Better

With Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and a Medicare Supplement, you have much more freedom of choice and lower costs than you do with an MA plan!

NOTE: Medicare Part A is hospital insurance and Part B is medical insurance.

Which Plan Gives You the Most Freedom?

With an MA plan, you are locked into the plan’s network of doctors, specialists, hospitals, and care facilities. If you want to see a specialist, you often have to see your preferred care provider first, who acts as a gatekeeper, before you can see a specialist within your network. If you want to see a specialist or doctor that is outside of your network, good luck! That will cost you a lot more in out-of-pocket (OOP) costs.

gatekeeper_

With a Medicare Supplement plan, you can go to ANY doctor, specialist, hospital, or care facility in the US as long as they accept Medicare!

For example, the MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Texas accepts Medicare and therefore, they accept ALL Medicare Supplement plans. They don’t, however, accept most MA plans!

Which Plan Has Lower Out-Of-Pocket Costs?

With an MA plan, your OOP costs can be as high as $6,700 per calendar year and even higher if you go to doctors and/or care facilities that are outside of your network! With a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement (the two best Medigap plans), the most you would normally pay in OOP costs in a calendar year is either $0 with Plan F or $183 with
Plan G!

out of pocket costs

NOTE: The $183 is the Medicare Part B (Medical) deductible, which is $183 per calendar year in 2017. That amount can change from year to year, but historically, it has always been very stable.

Maximum Out-Of-Pocket Costs for MA Plans in San Diego

The following data was obtained from the Medicare.gov website and shows the current OOP costs for MA plans in the 92009 zip code in San Diego. These costs currently range from $3,300 to $6,700 per calendar year!

If you go out-of-network with your MA plan, your OOP costs will be even higher!

Current (in-network) Maximum OOP Costs for MA Plans in the 92009 Zip Code:

  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Essential (HMO) – $4,900
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 4 (HMO) – $3,400
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Premier (HMO) – $4,300
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Value (HMO) – $5,300
  • Aetna Medicare Choice Plan (PPO) – $6,000
  • Aetna Medicare Select Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Anthem MediBlue Coordination Plus (HMO) – $6,700
  • Anthem MediBlue Plus (HMO) – $3,400
  • Blue Shield 65 Plus (HMO) – $3,400
  • Brand New Day Classic Care Drug Savings (HMO) – $3,400
  • Brand New Day Classic Choice for Medi-Medi (HMO) – $6,700
  • Care1st AdvantageOptimum Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Coordinated Choice Plan (HMO) – $6,700
  • Health Net Healthy Heart (HMO) – $3,400
  • Health Net Seniority Plus Sapphire (HMO) – $6,700
  • Health Net Seniority Plus Sapphire Premier (HMO) – $6,700
  • Humana Gold Plus H5619-016 (HMO) – $4,900
  • Humana Value Plus H5619-037 (HMO) – $6,700
  • Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage San Diego (HMO) – $4,900
  • Scripps Classic offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Scripps Plus offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $6,700
  • Scripps Signature offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $4,000
  • Sharp Direct Advantage Gold Card (HMO) – $3,400
  • Sharp Direct Advantage Platinum Card (HMO) – $3,300
  • Sharp SecureHorizons Plan by UnitedHealthcare (HMO) – $3,400

In contrast, in a calendar year, your maximum OOP costs are either $0 with a Plan F Medicare Supplement or $183 with a Plan G Medicare Supplement!

Is Your MA Plan’s Maximum OOP Costs Really No More Than $6,700 Per Year?

If you stay within your MA plan’s network, your maximum OOP costs are not supposed to be more than $6,700 per calendar year. However, if you go outside of the plan’s network, your OOP costs can be significantly higher than that!

Suppose that you get really sick and need expensive treatment such as Chemotherapy, etc. in the second half of the year. You could end up paying up to $6,700 (or whatever your plan’s maximum OOP cost is) by the end of the calendar year and guess what? Your OOP maximum zeros out in January, and it starts all over again!

If you are still receiving expensive medical care in the beginning of the year, you could potentially end up paying your maximum OOP cost two different times in a
12-month period! For example, if your maximum OOP cost is $6,700, your total OOP cost in a 12-month period, not a calendar year, could be more than $13,400!

Which Plan Has Lower Co-Payments?

If you have an MA plan, you will make a co-payment almost every time you go to the doctor, see a specialist, a physical therapist, etc. With most Medicare Supplement plans, there are no co-payments for doctor’s visits, etc.

Co Payment

How Difficult is it to Switch From an MA Plan to Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement Plan?

That depends if you are in a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Special Enrollment Period

If you currently have an MA plan, and you are in a SEP, you can switch to Original Medicare and to any six of the 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans any time of the year, REGARDLESS of your health.

The six “guaranteed issue” Medicare Supplement plans are plans A, B, C, F, K, and L. In other words, if you are in a SEP, you are guaranteed the right to get a Plan F Medicare Supplement, but not a Plan G supplement, etc.

NOTE: You could apply for Plan G, but you would be medically underwritten, and you could be turned down for certain medical conditions.

The 10 Standardized Medicare Supplement Plans

Nationwide, there are 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans to choose from (Plans A through N). The term “standardized” means that the benefits and coverage for every Plan F, Plan G, etc. is exactly the same with every insurance carrier. Unlike MA plans, which are not standardized, it’s much easier to compare “apples with apples” with Medicare Supplement plans.

Medicare Supplement rates are not standardized. They vary significantly between insurance carriers. For that reason, it’s very important to shop around every year!

2017-Medicare-Supplement-Chart

NOTE: In the preceding chart, notice that the only difference between Plan F and Plan G is the $183 per calendar year Part B deductible.

SEP Situations

Here are some SEP situations that would guarantee you the right to switch back to Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement plan:

  • The plan is leaving the Medicare program or stops service in your area.
  • You move out of the plan’s service area.
  • You leave the plan because the company has not followed certain rules or has misled you.
  • You decide to switch to Original Medicare within the first year of joining an MA plan when first eligible for Medicare Part A at age 65.

If you are in one of these situations, you cannot be turned down for Medicare Supplement insurance coverage, regardless of your health!

If You Are Not In a Special Enrollment Period

If you are not in a SEP, you will have to wait until the AEP (between October 15th and December 7th) to switch back to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) on January 1st of the following year.

Although you can switch back to Original Medicare, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a Medicare Supplement plan because you will be medically underwritten, and you must be in relatively good health to qualify for a Medicare Supplement plan.

If You Have Serious Health Conditions, You May Not Be Able to Get a Medicare Supplement Plan!

If you are not in a SEP and you are coming off of an MA plan during the AEP, you would normally have to meet minimum underwriting requirements to qualify for a Medicare Supplement plan, and you could be turned down for coverage.

If you live in California and you have serious health issues, more than likely, I can still get you a Medicare Supplement without having to answer any medical questions on the application! Call me for more details!

The Pros and Cons of MA Plans and Medicare Supplement Plans

Is there really an advantage to having a Medicare Advantage plan? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each, and you can decide for yourself.

Pros-and-Cons-of-Alternative-Lending

MA Plan Advantages

Here are some benefits of having an MA plan:

  1. MA premiums can be very low, and some plans have no monthly premiums at all.
  2. Some MA plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).
  3. Maximum OOP costs are “limited.” Plans vary, but in 2017, the most you can pay in OOP costs is $6,700 per calendar year. (I wouldn’t really call this a “benefit” since $6,700 is a lot of money! With a Plan F Medicare Supplement, you won’t pay any OOP costs!)
  4. Some MA plans offer additional benefits such as vision, hearing, dental, and other health and wellness programs. (Note that some Medicare Supplement plans also offer additional benefits such as free gym memberships, vision, and hearing aid benefits.)

Medicare Supplement Plan Advantages

Here are some benefits of having a Medicare Supplement plan:

  1. You have much more FREEDOM of choice with a Medicare Supplement than you do with an MA plan because you can go to ANY doctor, hospital, specialist, or care facility in the United States as long as they accept Medicare. (You can’t do that with an MA plan.)
  2. You have much for financial stability with a Medicare Supplement than an MA plan because there are no unexpected spikes in costs and OOP expenses for co-payments, hospitalizations, surgeries, chemotherapy, etc.
  3. With a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement, other than your premiums, your maximum OOP costs in a calendar year will be either $0 (Plan F) or $183 (Plan G) per calendar year in 2017. With an MA plan, your maximum OOP costs can be as high as $6,700 per calendar year!
  4. Chemotherapy is very expensive. With an MA plan, you have to pay the entire 20% Medicare Part B co-payment for chemotherapy, which can cost thousands of dollars. With a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement, the most you will pay for Chemotherapy is either $0 (Plan F) or $183 (Plan G)!
  5. You are not limited to a specific geographic region or a restrictive network of doctors, hospitals, specialists, care facilities, etc. like you are with an MA plan. With most MA plans, you must use their providers or you may pay more or all of the costs if you go out of their network.
  6. With a Medicare Supplement, you can go directly to the specialist of your choice, ANYWHERE in the United States, as long as they accept Medicare. With most MA plans, you must go through your primary care doctor first (the “gatekeeper”) before you can see a specialist within your network.
  7. There are no HMO or PPO plans or networks with Medicare Supplements. If you have an MA plan and you go to a doctor, other health care provider, facility, or supplier that doesn’t belong to the plan’s network for non‑emergency or non-urgent care services, your services may not be covered, or your costs could be higher.
  8. If you want to go to a renowned treatment center such as the MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Texas, you can do so with any Medicare Supplement, as long as they accept Medicare. You can’t do that with most MA plans.
  9. If you move to another part of the country, you can keep your Medicare Supplement, but you cannot keep your MA plan if you move out of your network.
  10. There are only 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans to choose from, (Plan A through Plan N). Since Medicare Supplements are standardized, the coverage and benefits for every Plan F, Plan G, etc. is exactly the same with every insurance carrier, so it’s much easier to shop around and compare “apples with apples.” MA plans are not standardized, and the co-payments, deductibles, out of pocket costs, etc. vary significantly between MA plans, and they change every year making them unnecessarily complicated and confusing.
  11. Your Medicare Supplement plan cannot be cancelled as long as you pay your premiums. MA plans are annual contracts, and they can be cancelled or benefits changed at the end of each calendar year.
  12. There are no provider networks with Medicare Supplements. With MA plans, providers can join or leave a plan’s provider network anytime during the year meaning that you could have to start shopping around for a new doctor while simultaneously undergoing Chemotherapy or other specialized medical treatments.
  13. There is no AEP for Medicare Supplements, and you don’t have to shop around every year and make sure that your coverage, co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles, and benefits haven’t changed since the previous year. If there are any Medicare changes from one calendar year to the next, your Medicare Supplement will automatically pay the difference.
  14. You can travel around the US for as long as you want (or even move to a different geographic location), and your Medicare Supplement cannot be cancelled for leaving your “service area.” With most MA plans, if you travel outside of the MA plan’s service area for more than six months, you could be disenrolled from the plan.
  15. With most Medicare Supplements, there are no co-payments when you go to the doctor. With most MA plans, you have to pay co-payments when you go to the doctor.
  16. With Medicare Supplements, pre-certification is not required for surgeries, etc. as long as the procedure is “medically necessary.” With most MA plans, pre-certification is required for surgeries or before getting expensive treatments.
  17. You can switch Medicare Supplement plans or insurance carriers any time of the year as long as you meet minimum health and underwriting requirements. With an MA plan, you can only join or leave an MA plan during the AEP. Otherwise, you are locked into your plan for the entire calendar year, except for certain circumstances, such as moving out of your plan’s service area, etc.)

As you can see, you are much better off with a Medicare Supplement plan than you are with a Medicare Advantage plan!

Conclusion

If you currently have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you have given up your Original Medicare rights that you have worked so hard for, and you are compromising your freedom to go to the best doctors, hospitals, specialists, neurosurgeons, care facilities, etc. in the United States.

I would strongly urge you to switch back to Original Medicare and get a Medicare Supplement plan during the upcoming AEP, between October 15th and December 7th)! Contact me TODAY for more information or a free quote!

As an independent insurance agent specializing in Medicare Supplements, I work with ALL of the major insurance carriers, not one particular company. I will shop around for you, every year, and save you money on your Medicare Supplement insurance!

If you live in California and you have a serious medical condition, more than likely, I can still get you a Medicare Supplement at a competitive price without answering any of the health questions on the application!

I hope that you have found this article to be helpful and informative. Please feel free to forward this article to anyone who may be interested.

Your comments and feedback are appreciated! If you have any questions, please contact me… I’m always happy to help!

Thank you!

Ron Lewis
www.MedigapExpress.com
Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
866.718.1600 (Toll-free)

Should You Sign Up for a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan?

I just turned 65 yesterday, August 20th, and my Medicare Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical), Medicare Supplement, and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), also known as Part D, all started a few weeks ago on August 1st, 2017.

NOTE: For most people, their Medicare benefits usually begin on the 1st of the month when they turn 65.

Fortunately, I’m in pretty good health, and I only take two relatively inexpensive medications. Since there is a late enrollment penalty added to your monthly PDP premiums if you don’t sign up for a PDP when you are first eligible (turning 65 or starting Medicare Part B), I decided that I was going to at least sign up for the cheapest PDP to avoid the penalty later on.

Pills

How Much is the Part D Penalty?

The cost of the late enrollment penalty depends on how long you went without Part D or creditable prescription drug coverage.

According to the Medicare.gov website “Medicare calculates the penalty by multiplying 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($35.63 in 2017) times the number of full, uncovered months you didn’t have Part D or creditable coverage. The monthly premium is rounded to the nearest $.10 and added to your monthly Part D premium.”

NOTE: The national base beneficiary premium may increase each year, so your penalty amount may also increase each year.

The late enrollment penalty is approximately $0.34 per month for every month you could have had prescription drug coverage but didn’t. For example, if you went 10 months without PDP coverage before you started a new PDP, the total penalty would be approximately $3.40 per month ($0.34 x 10 months) on top of the regular prescription drug plan monthly premium. Again, the penalty amount can increase in the future.

Part D Penalty

My Prescription Drug Plan Coverage — Before and After Medicare

Before I started on Medicare, I had some limited prescription drug plan coverage through my Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) health insurance, which wasn’t so “affordable.”

I take two medications: Fluticasone nasal inhaler and Levothyroxine. Through my previous pharmacy, the regular price of the Fluticasone was $56.80 per month, but with my Obamacare insurance, I was paying $20.00 per month. In addition to that, I was paying $12.68 per month for the Levothyroxine.

Altogether, before I started on Medicare, I was paying $32.68 per month for both prescriptions.

In contrast, I recently signed up with the Medicare “Humana Walmart Rx Plan” because it is currently the cheapest and most cost-effective drug plan for my particular situation. During the next Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which is from October 15th through December 7th each year, I may sign up for a different PDP plan if I find another plan that is better than the one that I currently have.

Regardless of what PDP you currently have, you should always shop around every year during the AEP between October 15th and December 7th.

open-enrollment-street-sign

NOTE: I am not certified to sell prescription drug plans, and I am not recommending, endorsing, or promoting Humana or any particular insurance carrier. My primary focus and area of expertise is with Medicare Supplement insurance plans.

With my Humana PDP, I pay a monthly premium of $17 per month, and I have a $400 per calendar year deductible. However, the two prescriptions that I take are classified as
Tier 1 prescriptions, and under my current plan, Tier 1 and Tier 2 prescriptions are not subject to the deductible, so I don’t have to pay any deductibles for the two prescriptions that I take!

With my Humana PDP, I chose to have my prescriptions mailed to me every three months, so I no longer have to drive to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions each month. That’s a nice benefit too!

NOTE: In my particular situation, the mail-order option ended up costing me less than picking my prescriptions up from a pharmacy, but that isn’t always the case.

For the Fluticasone, I am currently paying $8.00 TOTAL for a three-month supply! That comes out to $2.67 per month! For the Levothyroxine, I do not have to pay anything other than my monthly premium!

As mentioned before, I am currently paying $17.00 per month for my Humana PDP premium, and my total out-of-pocket cost for my medications is $2.67 per month for a total cost of $19.67 per month. In contrast, I was paying $32.68 per month prior to Medicare just for my prescriptions, not including my not-so-reasonably-priced health insurance premium.

I am very happy with my Medicare prescription drug plan. For me, it is significantly better than the prescription coverage that I had before I was on Medicare.

happy

Is a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Good for Everyone?

Fortunately for me, the prescriptions that I take are relatively inexpensive, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. Some of my clients take a lot of expensive prescriptions, and a PDP doesn’t always save them money or else some of the prescriptions may not be covered at all by the PDP, which is very frustrating.

Some people don’t take any prescriptions at all, and they may question whether it makes sense to sign up for a PDP if they currently don’t need one, even though their health could (and probably will) change at some point in the future.

Because of the late enrollment penalty, I would still recommend signing up for the cheapest PDP, at least for the time being, if it isn’t a financial hardship.

NOTE: This blog addresses my experience with Medicare prescription drug plans. To read about my experience with Medicare Supplement insurance plans, please click here.

Everyone is different, and what is good for one person isn’t necessarily good for another. Should you sign up for a prescription drug plan? That is a personal decision and a question that only you can answer.

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Please click the “Subscribe” button to be notified when I write future blogs.

I am an independent insurance agent specializing in Medicare Supplement insurance plans. I work with all the major insurance carriers in California, Washington, and several other states. If you have any questions, or if you would like for me to shop around for you to save you money on your Medicare Supplement insurance, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

Thank you!

Ron Lewis
www.MedigapExpress.com
Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
866.718.1600 (Toll-free)

Hello Medicare, and Goodbye Obamacare!

In several months from now, a good friend of mine will be turning 65 years old. While he is not anxious to get any older than he already is, he is happy about one thing… he will be getting off of Obamacare and onto Medicare!

65th-birthday-latex-balloons

My friend used to have a really good, low-deductible health insurance plan that was very affordable. But under Obamacare, all of that changed. The quality of his health insurance decreased significantly while his Affordable Care Act (ACA) premiums, co-payments, and deductibles increased dramatically. But fortunately, he now has maternity coverage, which is something that he never had before! Sorry about the sarcasm!

Pregnant man

When he goes onto Medicare, it will be just the opposite; the quality of his health insurance will increase significantly while the cost of his premiums, co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles will all decrease!

Current Coverage

For example, he currently has a Bronze 60 ACA plan. The annual deductible is $4,800 per calendar year if he goes to “participating” providers and $9,000 per calendar year if he goes to “non-participating” providers! According to his health plan, “You must pay all the costs up to the deductible amount before this plan begins to pay for covered services you use. The integrated deductible applies to both medical and pharmacy services.” Therefore, the deductibles apply to prescription drug coverage as well.

Once the deductible is met, my friend must pay 40% of the remaining costs until he has reached the maximum out-of-pocket (OOP) cost, which is $6,550 per calendar year for “participating” providers and $9,650 per calendar year for “non-participating” providers.

NOTE: According to his current health insurance plan, OOP costs do not include “Premiums, balance-billed charges, some co-payments, charges in excess of specified benefit maximums, and health care this plan doesn’t cover.” So, total OOP costs are really much higher than $6,550 or $9,650 per calendar year when you factor in premiums and other miscellaneous costs.

The deductible and OOP costs start all over again every January. If he got really sick in the last six months of the year, there is a real possibility that he could reach his maximum OOP costs of $6,550 (or $9,650) again in the first six months of the following year. That means that he could potentially have total OOP costs in excess of $13,100 to $19,300 in a twelve-month period, not including his premiums!

My friend has a subsidized plan through Covered California. Although he pays $268.52 per month for his Bronze 60 PPO plan, the full premium that others are paying for the same identical (non-subsidized) plan is $784.79 per month, which isn’t exactly cheap for a high-deductible, catastrophic plan! I’m pretty sure you can buy or lease a luxury automobile for a lot less than that!

Mercedes

Medicare Coverage

In contrast, he won’t have to pay anything for his Medicare Part A (Hospital) insurance, and he will pay $134.00 per month for his Medicare Part B (Medical) insurance. In addition to his Original Medicare, he will need to take out a Medicare Supplement plan to pick up the difference in co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance that Medicare does not pay.

Medicare Supplement Coverage

Of the 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans (aka Medigap plans because they pick up the “gaps” in coverage that are not covered by Medicare), Plan F and Plan G are the two best plans:

  • Plan F pays for ALL of the co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance that is not covered by Medicare. With Plan F, there are NO DEDUCTIBLES OR OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS!
  • Plan G is identical to Plan F except for the $183 per calendar year deductible for outpatient treatment such as physician services, inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services and supplies, physical and speech therapy, diagnostic tests, and durable medical equipment.

NOTE: In 2017, the Part B deductible is $183 per calendar year. This amount can change from year to year, but historically, it has been very stable. With Plan G, once you have met the $183 per calendar year deductible, there are no other out of pocket costs, and Plan G is exactly the same as Plan F. The monthly premiums for Plan G are usually significantly less than the monthly premiums for Plan F, so Plan G usually ends up being more cost effective than Plan F.

For this reason, many people with Plan F have been switching to Plan G. Also, beginning on January 1st, 2020, Plan F will no longer be available for new people who are turning 65.

Although my friend’s ACA health plan is a PPO, he is still restricted to doctors, specialists, hospitals, care facilities, etc. that are within his health plan’s network. If he goes out of the network or goes to “non-participating” providers, he pays even more!

With Original Medicare and Medicare Supplements, there are no networks, HMO’s, or PPO’s, so my friend will have much more freedom of choice than he presently has with his ACA plan.

freedom

With a Medicare Supplement plan, you can go to ANY doctor, specialist, care facility, or hospital in the United States, as long as they accept Medicare! If you later move to another state, you can keep your Medicare Supplement plan and use it ANYWHERE in the US!

Medicare Supplement Premiums

In California, Medicare Supplement rates are based primarily on your age and zip code. If my friend decides to splurge and go with Plan F (the “Cadillac” plan) he will have a $0 deductible and no out-of-pocket costs! For age 65, his monthly premium will be as low as $132.00 per month!

Rates can vary significantly between insurance carriers for the same identical plan and coverage, so it’s important to shop around every year!

If my friend wants to save money on his Medicare Supplement premiums by signing up with Plan G, his maximum calendar year deductible AND out-of-pocket costs combined will be $183 per calendar year, and his monthly premium will be as low as $119.36 per month!

Plan F or Plan G

Scenario #1 – Total Costs if My Friend Signs up with Plan F

If he decides to sign up with Plan F, the most expensive Medicare Supplement plan, his total monthly premiums for his Medicare Part A ($0), Medicare Part B ($134.00), and his Plan F Medicare Supplement ($132.00) will be $266.00 per month!

NOTE: If he wants to, my friend can also pick up a good Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) for $17.00 per month.

Scenario #2 – Total Costs if My Friend Signs up with Plan G

If he decides to sign up with Plan G, the most popular Medicare Supplement plan, his total monthly premiums for his Medicare Part A ($0), Medicare Part B ($134.00) and his Plan G Medicare Supplement ($119.36) will be $253.36 per month!

Conclusion

My friend is currently paying $268.52 per month for a high-deductible, catastrophic ACA health insurance plan that is basically worthless.

If he decides to sign up for a Plan F Medicare Supplement with no deductibles or out-of-pocket costs, his total cost for coverage under Medicare and his Medicare Supplement will be $266.00 per month!

If he decides to sign up for a Plan G Medicare Supplement with a $183 per calendar year deductible and no out-of-pocket costs, his total cost for coverage under Medicare and his Medicare Supplement will be $253.36 per month!

And now you know why my friend is smiling about his upcoming 65th birthday…
“Hello Medicare, and good riddance Obamacare!”

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Let me do the shopping for you and save you money on your Medicare Supplement! Contact me today for a for a free insurance quote and price comparison!

Ron Lewis
www.MedigapExpress.com
Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
866.718.1600 (Toll-free)

Upcoming Changes for Medicare Supplement Plan F and Plan C in 2020

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As of January 1st, 2020, “newly eligible” Medicare beneficiaries will no longer be able to purchase Plan F and Plan C Medicare Supplement plans, which are also known as “Medigap” plans because they pick up the “gaps” in coverage that Medicare doesn’t cover.

NOTE: The high-deductible Plan F Medigap plan is also going away.

Individuals that are signing up for Medicare on or after January 1st, 2020, will not be able to sign up for any Medigap plan that covers the Medicare Part B deductible, which is currently $183 per calendar year in 2017.

Of the 10 “standardized” Medigap plans, Plan F and Plan C are the only two plans that cover the Part A (Hospital) and Part B (Medical) deductibles and coinsurance in full. These two plans are the only Medigap plans that offer “first-dollar” coverage for every doctor or hospital visit.

Why Are Plan F and Plan C Going Away?

These changes are taking place because of Section 401 in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, which is also known as the “doc fix” law. To view the text, please click here.

In a nutshell, Nutshell ImageCongress passed this legislation to ensure that doctors would be paid adequately for providing Medicare services and to provide an incentive for doctors to continue accepting Medicare patients. Previous legislation had budgeted for doctors to have rate decreases over the years and there was concern that many doctors would stop accepting Medicare patients.

Because of the ever-increasing cost of medical care and the fact that more than 10,000 baby-boomers are turning 65 every day, Medicare is experiencing increased financial strain. Since individuals with Plan F and Plan C have no co-payments or deductibles, lawmakers fear that this lack of cost-sharing results in Medicare abuse, which is driving up costs.

It has been argued that the “first dollar” coverage available from Plan F and Plan C cause Medicare recipients to see their doctors more frequently than they would if they didn’t have all of their deductibles covered and had to pay some out-of-pocket costs when they did go to the doctor. Some claim that these changes will save Medicare billions of dollars each year in medical claim exposure.

In an effort to control costs by reducing claims, Congress has decided that it makes more sense for Medicare recipients to be responsible for more of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. Consequently, Congress has decided to eliminate Plan F and Plan C because they want Medicare beneficiaries to have more “skin in the game.”

No one knows if these measures will really reduce Medicare’s overall annual costs. Some argue that Medicare beneficiaries may end up waiting to get medical care for serious issues, which would ultimately cost Medicare more money in the future.

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What Happens If I Have Plan F or Plan C Before January 2020?

Since the MACRA only prohibits the sale of Medigap Plan F and Plan C to “newly eligible” Medicare beneficiaries on or after January 1st, 2020, if you already have one of these plans in 2020, you will be exempted and “grandfathered” in. You will not lose your coverage!

You will still be able to purchase Plan F and Plan C policies from other insurance carriers after 2020 as long as you can medically qualify or if you are in an Open Enrollment or Guaranteed Issue situation.

If you were eligible for Medicare prior to 2020, but you delayed getting it because you are still working and have employer insurance, you will still be able to enroll in Plan F or Plan C after you stop working and switch back to Medicare.

What Happens If I Won’t Be Eligible for Medicare Until After January 2020?

For those individuals who will not be eligible for Medicare until January 1st, 2020 or later, although you will not be able to get Plan F, you will still be able to get Plan G, which is an excellent Medigap plan that is identical to Plan F in every way except for the $183 per calendar year deductible.

Today, many people that have Plan F have been switching to Plan G because the premiums for Plan G are usually significantly less than the premiums for Plan F. In most cases, Plan G will cost you less and is usually more cost effective, even if you pay for the entire Part B deductible!

Shop Around Every Year!

Since Medicare Supplement rates vary significantly between insurance carriers for the same identical plans and coverage, and since the rates in most states are based on your “attained” age, and they usually go up in price each year, it’s important to shop around every year, preferably during the 30 days before your birthday.

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If you live in California, there is a law called the “California Birthday Rule.” This law guarantees you the right to switch “like for like” Medigap plans, such as Plan F for Plan F, or you can switch to any other Medigap plan with fewer benefits, such as from Plan F to Plan G, etc. You can do this every yearREGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH, during the 30 days following your birthday! Most insurance carriers in California let you do this during the 30 days before or after your birthday.

Whether you decide to keep your current Plan C or Plan F, or if you want to find out how much you can save by switching to Plan G, you should take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and compare rates every year to make sure that you aren’t paying too much!

If you have any questions or comments, or if you’d like a free quote or rate comparison, please visit www.MedigapExpress.com or call my cell at (760) 525-5769 or (866) 718-1600 (Toll-free).

Thank you!

Ron Lewis

Medicare Advantage Plans – Do the Advantages Outweigh the Disadvantages?

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for signing up for a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan or or a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) is here, and it goes from October 15th through December 7th each year. During this period, many “seniors” have to make choices regarding their health care for the following year.

NOTE: If you have a Medicare Supplement, the AEP does not apply to you unless you want to enroll in or change your PDP.

If you want to change to a different MA plan in 2017, or if you want to leave your MA plan and switch back to Original Medicare, you must do so during the AEP each year. The new coverage will begin on January 1st of the following year. In most cases, you must stay enrolled in your MA plan for the calendar year beginning in January or on the date your coverage begins. However, in certain situations, you may be able to join, switch, or drop an MA plan during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), such as if you move out of your plan’s service area, etc.

open-enrollment

Pros and Cons – Medicare Supplements Versus Medicare Advantage Plans

When it comes to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, I’m going to be totally honest and admit right now that I am biased because I don’t like them! I realize that most people who are on Medicare are retired and on fixed incomes, but unless you literally can’t afford to pay the monthly premium for a Medicare Supplement (also known as Medigap), I would never recommend or advise someone to give up their Original Medicare rights and sign up for an MA plan!

Now that we are in the AEP, if you currently have an MA plan, or if you are thinking about signing up for one, I would strongly recommend that you read this article so that you can make an informed decision about whether an MA plan is right for you and in your best financial interest.

There are pros and cons to each, but the Medicare Supplement benefits are significantly greater than the MA plan benefits as demonstrated below.

medicare-advantage-vs-medigap-boxes

MA Plan Advantages

Here are some benefits of having an MA plan:

  • MA premiums can be very low, and some plans have no monthly premiums at all.
  • Some MA plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).
  • Maximum out-of-pocket (OOP) costs are limited. Plans vary, but in 2017, the most you can pay in OOP costs is $6,700 per calendar year. (I wouldn’t really call this a benefit since $6,700 is a lot of money, and the most you would pay in OOP costs with a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement is $0 (Plan F) or $166 (Plan G) per calendar year in 2016!)
  • Some MA plans offer additional benefits such as vision, hearing, dental, and other health and wellness programs. (Some Medicare Supplement plans also offer additional benefits such as free gym memberships, vision, and hearing aid benefits.)

Medicare Supplement Plan Advantages

Here are some benefits of having a Medicare Supplement plan:

  • You have much more FREEDOM of choice with a Medicare Supplement than you do with an MA plan because you can go to ANY doctor, hospital, specialist, or care facility in the United States as long as they accept Medicare. (You can’t do that with an MA plan.)
  • You have much for financial stability with a Medicare Supplement than an MA plan because  there are no unexpected spikes in costs and OOP expenses for co-payments, hospitalizations, surgeries, chemotherapy, etc.
  • With a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement, other than your premiums, your maximum OOP costs in a calendar year will be either nothing (Plan F) or no more than $166 (Plan G) per calendar year in 2016. With an MA plan, your maximum OOP costs can be as high as $6,700 per calendar year in 2016 and 2017!
  • Chemotherapy is very expensive. With an MA plan, you have to pay the entire 20% Medicare Part B co-payment for chemotherapy, which can cost thousands of dollars. With a Plan F or Plan G Medicare Supplement, the most you will pay for Chemotherapy  is either nothing (Plan F) or $166 (Plan G) per calendar year (in 2016)!chemo-cost2
  • You are not limited to a specific geographic region or a restrictive network of doctors, hospitals, specialists, care facilities, etc. like you are with an MA plan. With most MA plans, you must use their providers or you may pay more or all of the costs if you go out of their network.
  • With a Medicare Supplement, you can go directly to the specialist of your choice, ANYWHERE in the United States, as long as they accept Medicare. Most HMO MA plans require you to go through a primary care doctor first before you can see a specialist within their geographic network.
  • There are no HMO or PPO plans or networks with Medicare Supplements. If you have an MA plan and you go to a doctor, other health care provider, facility, or supplier that doesn’t belong to the plan’s network for non‑emergency or non-urgent care services, your services may not be covered, or your costs could be higher.
  • If you want to go to a renowned treatment center such as the MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Texas, you can do so with a Medicare Supplement, as long as they accept Medicare. You can’t do that with most MA plans.
  • If you move to another part of the country, you can keep your Medicare Supplement, but you cannot keep your MA plan if you move out of your network.
  • There are only 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans to choose from,  (Plan A through Plan N). Since Medicare Supplements are standardized, the coverage and benefits for every Plan F, Plan G, etc. is exactly the same with every insurance carrier, so it’s much easier to shop around and compare “apples with apples.” MA plans are not standardized, and the co-payments, deductibles, out of pocket costs, etc. vary significantly between MA plans, and they change every year making them unnecessarily complicated and confusing.
  • Your Medicare Supplement plan cannot be cancelled as long as you pay your premiums. MA plans are annual contracts, and they can be cancelled or benefits changed at the end of each calendar year.
  • There are no provider networks with Medicare Supplements. With MA plans, providers can join or leave a plan’s provider network anytime during the year meaning that you could have to start shopping around for a new doctor while simultaneously undergoing Chemotherapy or other specialized medical treatments.
  • There is no AEP for Medicare Supplements, and you don’t have to shop around every year and make sure that your coverage, co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles, and benefits haven’t changed since the previous year. If there are any Medicare changes from one calendar year to the next, your Medicare Supplement will automatically pay the difference.
  • You can travel around the US for as long as you want (or even move to a different geographic location), and your Medicare Supplement cannot be cancelled for leaving your “service area.” With most MA plans, if you travel outside of the MA plan’s service area for more than six months, you could be disenrolled from the plan.
  • With most Medicare Supplements, there are no co-payments when you go to the doctor. With most MA plans, you have to pay co-payments when you go to the doctor.
  • With Medicare Supplements, pre-certification is not required for surgeries, etc. as long as the procedure is “medically necessary.” With most MA plans, pre-certification is required for surgeries or before getting expensive treatments.
  • You can switch Medicare Supplement plans or insurance carriers any time of the year as long as you meet minimum health and underwriting requirements. With an MA plan, you can only join or leave an MA plan during the AEP. Otherwise, you are locked into your plan for the entire calendar year, except for certain circumstances, such as moving out of your plan’s service area, etc.)

As you can see from the facts mentioned above, there really aren’t many advantages to having a Medicare Advantage plan.

The 12-Month Medicare Advantage “Trial Right” Period

During the AEP, you can join an MA plan even if you have pre-existing medical conditions, except for End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). You have a 12-month period to try out an MA plan. If you later change your mind or are dissatisfied, you can disenroll from the plan anytime during that first 12 months, prior to the one-year anniversary of the effective date. You can rejoin Original Medicare, and still have a guaranteed issue right to purchase a Medicare Supplement policy. During this period, the insurance carrier cannot deny you coverage, regardless of your health.

WARNING: If you have had an MA plan for longer than a year and you want to switch back to Original Medicare, you may do so during the AEP. However, if you have developed serious health issues, you probably won’t be able to get a Medicare Supplement because they are medically underwritten, and you must be in relatively good health to qualify for one!

If you have serious health issues and you want to switch back to Original Medicare and get a Medicare Supplement, let me know because there are some “tricks” that I’m aware of to get around this!

Are Some Medicare Advantage Plans Really Free?

Because some MA plans have very low monthly premiums or no monthly premiums at all, some unscrupulous insurance agents promote them as “FREE” Medicare insurance plans, which is inaccurate, misleading, and, in my opinion, downright unethical. And some of these agents erroneously argue that MA plans cost less than traditional Medicare Supplement plans, which could be argued if you are healthy and rarely go to the doctor, BUT the real purpose for having health insurance is for the “worst-case scenario” and to protect your financial assets against unexpected catastrophic costs.

medicare-advantage-pig

If your health should eventually change and you develop a serious illness, you will wish that you had a Medicare Supplement instead of an MA plan! These agents are providing a disservice to their clients because they are subjecting them to potentially HUGE and unexpected out-of-pocket costs that can literally cost their clients many thousands of dollars!

Maximum Out-Of-Pocket Costs for MA Plans in San Diego

In San Diego, the maximum OOP costs for MA plans currently range from $3,300 to $6,700 per calendar year!

NOTE: If you go out-of-network with your “free” MA plan, your OOP costs will be even greater!

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The following data was obtained from the Medicare.gov website and shows what the current OOP costs are for these “free” MA plans in San Diego:

  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Essential (HMO) – $4,900
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Plan 4 (HMO) – $5,900
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Premier (HMO) – $4,300
  • AARP MedicareComplete SecureHorizons Value (HMO) – $5,300
  • Aetna Medicare Choice Plan (PPO) – $6,700
  • Aetna Medicare Select Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Anthem MediBlue Coordination Plus (HMO) – $6,700
  • Anthem MediBlue Plus (HMO) – $3,400
  • Blue Shield 65 Plus (HMO) – $3,400
    Care1st AdvantageOptimum Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Coordinated Choice Plan (HMO) – $6,700
  • Health Net Healthy Heart (HMO) – $5,000
  • Health Net Seniority Plus Sapphire (HMO) – $6,700
  • Health Net Seniority Plus Sapphire Premier (HMO) – $6,700
  • Humana Gold Plus H5619-037 (HMO) – $6,700
  • Humana Gold Plus H5619-016 (HMO) – $4,900
  • Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage San Diego (HMO) – $4,400
  • Scripps Classic offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $3,400
  • Scripps Plus offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $6,700
  • Scripps Signature offered by SCAN Health Plan (HMO) – $4,000
  • Sharp Advantage Select (HMO) – $3,500
  • Sharp Advantage Select Plus (HMO) – $3,300
  • Sharp SecureHorizons Plan by UnitedHealthcare (HMO) – $3,400

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Is the Maximum OOP Cost Really No More Than $6,700 Per Year?

Depending on which MA plan you have in San Diego County, the most you would pay for OOP costs in 2017 is $6,700 per calendar year! If you go outside of your plan’s network,  you could end up paying even more than that!

Now suppose that you get really sick and need expensive treatment such as Chemotherapy, etc. in the second half of the year. You could end up paying up to $6,700 (or whatever your plan’s maximum OOP cost is) by the end of the calendar year and guess what? Your OOP maximum zeros out in January, and it starts all over again!

If you are still receiving expensive medical care in the beginning of the year, you could potentially end up paying your maximum OOP cost TWICE in a 12-month period! For example, if your maximum OOP cost is $6,700, your total OOP cost in a 12-month period, not a calendar year, could be as much as $13,400 with your “free” MA plan!

Do Medicare Advantage Plans Really Cost Less Than Medicare Supplement Plans?

In California, Medicare Supplement rates are based primarily on your age and zip code. Plan F and Plan G are the two best and most popular Medicare Supplement plans.

Plan F pays for ALL of the co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance that is not covered by Medicare, and with Plan F, there are no OOP costs other than the monthly premiums.

Plan G is identical to Plan F in every way except you would have to pay the small Part B (Medical) deductible, which is presently $166 per calendar year in 2016. That is the only difference between the two plans! With Plan G, the most you will pay in OOP costs is $166 per calendar year other than the monthly premiums.

NOTE: The Part B medical deductible can change from year to year, but historically, it has been very stable. My Obamacare medical deductible is over $5,000 per calendar year! I’m 64, and I can’t wait to sign up for Plan G next year so I will only have to pay $166 per calendar year for my deductible! As far as I’m concerned, if the Plan G medical deductible was $500, it would still be a great deal!

Many people who had Plan F have switched to Plan G because the premiums are less, and it’s usually more cost effective, even if you pay for the $166 Part B deductible yourself!

plan-g

For example, in the San Diego area, a 70 year old can purchase Plan G for under $140 per month ($1,680 per year). Again, with Plan G the most you would pay for OOP costs in 2016 would be $166 per calendar year!

In this example, if you have a Plan G Medicare Supplement and you are paying $1,680 per year for your annual premiums plus the $166 Part B medical deductible, your total annual cost is $1,846 per year ($1,680 + 166 = $1,846)!

So, for $1,846 per year, you would have the total FREEDOM to go to ANY doctor, hospital, specialist, or care facility in the United States (as long as they accepted Medicare), AND 100% of your Medicare co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance costs would be paid for, AND you would not have to pay the 20% co-payment for Chemotherapy that is not covered by Medicare or your MA plan if you needed it, AND, in the worst case scenario, you would have no other OOP costs or expenses for required medical care or treatment!

In comparison, if you had a “free” MA plan, and your maximum OOP cost is $6,700 per year, you could have saved up to $4,854 per year if you had signed up with a Plan G Medicare Supplement plan instead ($6,700 – 1,846 = $4,854)!

Conclusion

For the reasons mentioned above, I hope that I have convinced you that you are much better off with a Medicare Supplement plan. If you sign up with an MA plan, you give up your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) rights and compromise your freedom to go to the best doctors, hospitals, specialists, neurosurgeons, care facilities, etc. in the United States.

There is no such thing as free Medicare insurance! As the old expression goes… “You get what you pay for!”

you-get-what-you-pay-for

If you currently have a Medicare Advantage plan or if you are thinking about getting one, I strongly advise and recommend that you sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan instead! If you need more information or want to compare prices, please let me know!

Also, if you liked this blog, and found it informative, please click the “Like” button, and please feel free to share it with your friends!

Thank you!

Ron Lewis

Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
http://www.RonLewisInsurance.com
(760) 525-5769 – Cell
(866) 718-1600 – Toll-free

As an independent insurance agent specializing in Medicare Supplements, I work with ALL the major insurance carriers in California and certain states in the US., and I represent my clients, not a particular insurance company. Since rates vary significantly from one insurance carrier to the next for the same identical plan and coverage, and since they are continuously changing, it’s important to shop around periodically to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for your premiums. I shop around for my clients EVERY YEAR, and I’m happy to do the shopping for you too!

If you or someone that you know would like Medicare Supplement information or a free quote, please let me know. If you know anyone that might enjoy reading this blog, please feel free to forward it on to them! And please send me your questions, comments, or feedback!

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Medicare Supplements – Why Pay Wholesale When You Can Pay Retail?

Yes, you read the title correctly. When it comes to Medicare Supplement plans, which are also known as Medigap plans because they pay for the “gaps” in coverage that are not paid for by Medicare, some of my clients prefer to pay retail instead of wholesale! That’s right, “Why pay less when you can pay more?”

retail

Most people that I meet are very happy to save a lot of money on their insurance premiums, but there are always some that really don’t seem to care. Or maybe they are skeptical because it just “seems too good to be true,” which I can totally understand.

A Tale of Two Cities, I Mean Two Clients…

I was working with two different clients yesterday, Client “A” and Client “B.”

two clients

Client “A”

Client “A” has Plan F with Blue Shield of CA, and his monthly premium is $279 per month. I shopped around for him and found several other insurance carriers that are offering Plan F at much lower rates. The lowest rate that I found for him is $179.33 per month. That is a savings of $99.67 per month or $1,196.04 per year for the same identical plan and coverage!

Many people who have Plan F have been switching to Plan G because both plans are identical except there is no deductible with Plan F, and there is a small $166 (Part B) deductible with Plan G. That is the only difference between the two plans!

However, Plan G is usually much more cost effective (cheaper) because the rates are lower. So even if you pay the $166 deductible, in most cases, you still end up spending much less money with Plan G than Plan F.

In addition to getting the current Plan F rates for Client “A,” I also provided him with the current Plan G rates for comparison. If he switched from Plan F to Plan G, he would have saved even more money! The best Plan G rate is $156.70 per month. That would be a gross savings of $122.30 per month or $1,467.60 per year! If he spent the $166 deductible, his net savings would still be $1,301.60 per year! In this particular case, Client “A” would have saved even more money by switching from Plan F to Plan G.

Inexplicably, Client “A” decided to keep his current plan for another year!

Client “B”

Client “B” also has Plan F with Blue Shield of CA, and her rate is $219 per month. I shopped around for her and, like Client “A,” I found several other insurance carriers that are also offering Plan F at much lower rates. The lowest rate that I found for Client “B” is $170.99 per month. That is a savings of $48.01 per month or $576.12 per year for the same identical Medicare Supplement plan and coverage!

Client “B” also had the option to switch from Plan F to Plan G, and again, she would have saved even more money on her premiums by doing so. Her current Plan F rate is $219 per month, and the best Plan G rate for her is $147.19 per month. That would be a gross savings of $71.23 per month or $854.76 per year! If she spent the entire $166 deductible, her net savings per year would still be $688.76 per year!

Just like Client “A,” Client “B” also decided to keep her current plan for another year!

Some Common Misconceptions

It’s very baffling to me when I can literally save someone hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year on their premiums for the same exact plan and coverage, and for whatever reason they are not interested in doing so.

If my auto and homeowner’s insurance agent told me he could save me $100 a month on my premiums, I would be thrilled to be able to save that much money. I guess that some people just aren’t as happy about saving money as I am!

Save-Money

Misconception #1 – By Switching Medigap Plans, I Won’t Be Able to Go to the Same Doctors

Some people are reluctant to change Medigap plans because they are afraid that they won’t be able to continue seeing the same doctors. This is a misconception because you can go to ANY doctor or hospital in the US with your Medicare Supplement as long as the doctor or hospital accepts Medicare. If your doctor accepts your current Medicare Supplement plan, then they have to accept ANY Medigap plan or insurance carrier that you have, PERIOD.

Misconception #2 – The Rates Are Too Good to Be True

If the new rates are significantly lower than the current plan, some people think it’s either too good to be true or a huge rate increase is soon to follow. This is also a misconception because most of the carriers that I work with lock in their rates for the first 12 months, so there wouldn’t be any unexpected rate increases.

Misconception #3 – My Coverage Will Not Be the Same

Another common misconception is that the coverage will not be the same, even if someone is switching from Plan F to Plan F or Plan G to Plan G, etc. There are 10 “standardized” plans to choose from, Plan A through Plan N. This means that the coverage for every standardized plan is exactly the same with every insurance carrier. So if someone has Plan F with Blue Shield and they want to switch to Plan F with Mutual of Omaha, etc., the coverage is exactly the same. Plan F is Plan F is Plan F…Period!

One of the other reasons people don’t want to switch their Medicare Supplement plan is because they fear change. “Everything has been going great so far. Even though the rates are cheaper and the coverage is the same, why take a chance by going with a different carrier?”

If you decide to switch carriers, the transition is seamless. Your coverage with the first insurance carrier will end at the end of the month, and the new coverage begins on the 1st of the following month. There are no forms or paperwork to fill out. When you go to the doctor after your new coverage begins, they will make a copy of your new Medicare Supplement card, and after that, everything will be the same as before.

The California Birthday Rule

In California, there is a law called the California Birthday Rule. If you have a Medicare Supplement, you are lucky to live in California for more reasons than just the beautiful weather and the great beaches!

happy-birthday

This law guarantees you the right to switch insurance carriers, EVERY YEAR, within 30 days of your birthday (before or after) REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH and without answering any health questions on the application! This is known as your annual open enrollment period. If another insurance carrier is offering the same plan that you currently have, or if they are offering another plan that has fewer benefits, you are guaranteed the right to switch carriers every year if you want to, and you cannot be turned down due to health reasons.

For example, if you have Plan F and another carrier is offering Plan F for a lower rate, you are guaranteed the right to switch to the other carrier every year around your birthday, without answering any health questions on the application. Likewise, you are guaranteed the right to switch to a plan with fewer benefits as well. So if you have Plan F, which has the most comprehensive coverage, you could switch to Plan G if you want to because Plan G has fewer benefits than Plan F.

NOTE: Under the California Birthday Rule, if you have Plan F, you can switch to any other plan, but if you have any other plan, you cannot use the California Birthday Rule to switch to Plan F because it has more benefits than any other plan.

You can actually switch insurance carriers or plans any time of the year, but if you do so at any time other than during the 30 days before or after your birthday, you will have to answer the health questions on the application, you will be medically underwritten, and you could be turned down for coverage due to medical reasons. If you have any serious health conditions, you should apply during the 30 days before your birthday!

In most other states, there isn’t a birthday rule. That means that once you sign up, if you later develop any serious health issues, you would have to meet minimum health and underwriting requirements if you wanted to change your Medicare Supplement plan or your insurance carrier. If your insurance rates increased significantly, you could be stuck paying very high premiums for many years! In California, that would never happen because you can always change your insurance every year around your birthday, regardless of your health!

Rates Vary Significantly Between Insurance Carriers For the Same Identical Plans and Coverage

In California, rates are based on “attained age,” which means that your rates are based on your current age, and they usually go up in price every year as you get older. As mentioned before, there are 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans to choose from, Plan A through Plan N. When I say “standardized,” that means that the coverage for Plan F, Plan G, etc. is exactly the same no matter which insurance carrier that you are with.

Although the coverage is exactly the same with every insurance carrier, the rates (prices) vary significantly between insurance carriers!

dollars

For example, in the 92056 zip code the Plan F rates for a 72 year old man range in price from $164.06 to $278.86 per month! That is a difference of $1,377.60 per year for the same exact plan and coverage! In other words, some 72 year old individuals in the 92056 zip code are paying $164.06 per month for their Plan F coverage while others are paying $278.86 per month for their Plan F coverage!

Examples of How I Recently Saved Clients Money By Switching From Plan F to Plan F

Here are some examples of how I took advantage of the California Birthday Rule and saved my clients a lot of money on their annual premiums by switching them from Plan F with one carrier to Plan F with a different carrier:

  • $142.08
  • $257.64
  • $334.08
  • $338.64
  • $349.68
  • $432.84
  • $498.24
  • $501.78
  • $501.78
  • $516.96
  • $536.76
  • $879.84
  • $1,003.56

Examples of How I Recently Saved Clients Money By Switching From Plan F to Plan G

Here are some other examples of how I took advantage of the California Birthday Rule and saved my clients a lot in their annual premiums by switching them from Plan F with one carrier to Plan G with a different carrier:

  • $203.12
  • $278.96
  • $349.16
  • $425.48
  • $462.68
  • $600.00

Although it’s not the norm, the most I have ever saved one of my clients, a married couple, was over $5,300 per year just by switching from Plan G with one insurance carrier to Plan G with a different insurance carrier! As you can see, it’s really important to shop around and compare rates!

Sometimes I Feel Like “I Get No Respect!”

Once in a while, however, I feel like Rodney Dangerfield because “I get no respect!” Most of my clients are 65 or over and many are retired and on fixed incomes. The majority are very receptive to saving money on their insurance premiums, but once in a while, I have to practically beg people to let me save them hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year on their premiums, and quite honestly, that drives me crazy!

Rodney_Dangerfield2

For whatever reasons, some people, like Client “A” and Client “B,” are apparently not so budget conscious. I was very excited and happy to tell them how much money I could save them, and their response was basically “Let me think about it!”

Think about it? Really? What is there to think about! It seems to me that it’s pretty much a no-brainer. I can hear them now. “Do I want to save $1,200 per year on my premiums for the same exact plan and coverage? Hmm, this is really a tough one. What am I going to do with an extra $100 a month? This might complicate my taxes! Eh, who needs this kind of stress and aggravation!”

stress

I don’t want any of my clients to feel stressed or aggravated! If you’re one of those individuals that prefer to pay wholesale instead of retail, instead of the other way around, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. If you’d like me to, I’m happy to do the shopping for you, EVERY YEAR, to save you money on your Medicare Supplement insurance!

NOTE: Although this article focuses primarily on Medigap plans in California, I am licensed and work with Medicare Supplement insurance plans outside of California as well. If you need premium rates for other states, I am happy to provide you with that information as well.

If you or someone that you know would like a free quote, please let me know. If you know anyone that might enjoy reading this blog, please feel free to forward it on! And please feel free to send me any of your questions, comments, and feedback!

Thank you,

Ron Lewis

Major Medicare Supplement Rate Discrepancies Between Insurance Carriers!

Do you know that Medicare Supplement (MediGap) rates vary significantly between insurance carriers for the same identical plan and coverage? In the US, there are 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans to choose from, plans A through N.

medigap

NOTE: The plans are labeled A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N to signify the plan differences. (Plans E, H, I and J are no longer available.)

The word “standardized” means that the coverage for Plan F, Plan G, etc. is exactly the same no matter what insurance carrier you have. For example, the coverage for Plan F is exactly the same with Mutual of Omaha, UnitedHealthcare, Blue Shield of CA, Aetna, Cigna, Anthem Blue Cross,  etc.

Although the coverage is exactly the same between insurance carriers for the standardized plans, the PREMIUMS ARE NOT THE SAME! In fact, most people are paying hundreds of dollars per year more for their insurance premiums than they should be!

For example, the Plan F premiums for a 70 year old living in the 92056 zip code in San Diego range in price from $153.98 per month to $264.19 per month. That’s a difference of $110.21 per month or $1,322.52 per year for the same identical plan and coverage! On the following rate sheet, you can see the different Plan F rates for 18 different insurance carriers in the 92056 zip code. Obviously, some carriers are more competitively priced than others!

Mary Jones Plan F Rates_Page_1

Mary Jones Plan F Rates_Page_2

As you can see, in the 92056 zip code, the Plan F rates for a 70 year old range in price from $153.98 per month to $264.19 per month! Again, that’s a difference of $110.21 per month or $1,322.52 per year for the same exact plan and coverage!

It’s Important to Shop Around Every Year!

The Medicare Supplement market is constantly changing, and so are the premiums. If you have a Medicare Supplement and you haven’t shopped around during the last year, there’s a good chance that you’re paying hundreds of dollars a year more for your insurance than you should be! Many people that I meet haven’t shopped around at all since they first signed up for Medicare! Many of these individuals haven’t heard from their insurance agent since then as well!

This past year, two of my clients (a husband and wife) had Plan G, and they were paying $809 per month for both of them, approximately $404.50 each! I shopped around for them and found them Plan G with a different carrier, Mutual of Omaha, and their total monthly premium is now $367.01 per month! That’s a savings of $441.99 per month or $5,303.88 per year! While this is not the norm, I can usually save most of my clients from $300 to $600 per year each on their Medicare Supplement insurance premiums and often more.

What is the Price Range for Plan F Medicare Supplement Rates?

In the following chart, I have taken the lowest and highest Plan F premiums for ages 65 through 90 in the 92056 zip code. As you can see, the monthly and annual differences are significant for every age group.

2 Lowest Plan F vs Highest Plan F

Is There An Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Supplement Plans?

No. Unlike Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which have an annual open enrollment period from October 15th through December 7th every year, you can shop around and apply for Medicare Supplement plans all year long.

NOTE: There is a six month-open enrollment period for Medicare Supplements when you first sign up for Medicare Part B.

Do I Need to Be In Good Health to Get a New Medicare Supplement Plan?

Unless you are in a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), if you already have a Medicare Supplement, you need to be in relatively good health to apply for a new Medicare Supplement with a different carrier. However, if you have a Medicare Supplement and you apply during the 30 days before or after your birthday, you don’t have to answer any health questions on the application, and you cannot be turned down due to health reasons if you apply for the same plan or another plan with fewer benefits. For more details, please see the California Birthday Rule section below.

Heart

What Happens If I Am Not In Good Health? Can I Still Apply For a New Medicare Supplement Plan?

Yes, absolutely! Because of the California Birthday Rule, if you already have a Medicare Supplement and you have serious health issues, YOU CANNOT BE TURNED DOWN FOR COVERAGE if you apply during the 30 days before or after your birthday.

California Birthday Rule

In California, there is a law called the California Birthday Rule. This law guarantees you the right to apply for a new Medicare Supplement plan EVERY YEAR, as long as you apply during the 30 days following your birthday. This is also known as the annual 30-day open enrollment period.

NOTE: Although the California Birthday Rules specifies that you can apply, REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH, during the 30 days following your birthday without being turned down for coverage, several insurance carriers will let you apply during the 30 days BEFORE or AFTER your birthday!

This is more advantageous for you because the premiums with these carriers are based on your current age when you apply, and your rates will be lower if you apply during the 30 days prior to your birthday. With these carriers, your new rates are also guaranteed and locked in for the first 12 months of your policy, so there won’t be any unexpected rate increases.

NOTE: Not all insurance carriers lock your rates for the first 12 months.

If you want to take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and apply during the 30 days before or after your birthday,  YOU CANNOT BE TURNED DOWN FOR COVERAGE as long as you apply for the same plan that you currently have OR if you apply for a different plan that has fewer benefits. For example, if you have Plan F (the most comprehensive plan) and you want to apply for Plan F with another carrier to save money on your premiums, or if you have Plan F and you want to apply with Plan G, etc.

NOTE: If you apply under the California Birthday Rule, there are no preexisting waiting periods for prior health conditions.

If you are in relatively good health, you can apply for a new Medicare Supplement plan any time of the year. If you have serious health issues, you should take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and apply for coverage during the 30 days before your birthday to save money on your premiums.

Consider Plan G to Save More Money On Your Premiums

Besides shopping around every year to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for your premiums, if you currently have Plan F, you should consider Plan G. Why? Because Plan G is identical to Plan F in EVERY way except you would pay a small $166 Part B (Medical) deductible one time per calendar year. That is the only difference between the two plans!

NOTE: I have an Obamacare Bronze plan, and my individual medical deductible is only $6,000 per year! I would gladly pay $166 per year for my medical deductible!

In other words, the most you would pay for any out-of-pocket expense with Plan G in any calendar year is $166. However, in most cases, you will save significantly more than $166 per year on your premiums, which usually makes Plan G a better value and more cost effective.

NOTE: The Part B (Medical) deductible is subject to change each year, but historically, it has remained stable.

To see the difference in coverage between Plan F and Plan G, please see the following chart:

Medigap Chart Plans F and G

As you can see, when you compare Plan F and Plan G, everything is exactly the same except for the $166 Part B deductible. Plan F has no deductible, and Plan G is basically Plan F with a small, $166 deductible.

Price Differences Between Plan F and Plan G

Although the two plans are almost identical in coverage, the rates for Plan G are usually significantly less than the Plan F rates. For a 70 year old in the 92056 zip code, the Plan F rates (above) range in price from $153.98 per month to $264.19 per month. The Plan G rates (below) range in price from $132.64 per month to $152.32 per month!

Plan F or Plan G

Plan G Rates Age 70

As you can see, the Plan G rates are significantly less than the Plan F rates for almost the same identical coverage.

Conclusion

The rates vary significantly from one insurance carrier to the next for the same identical plan and coverage. I recommend that you take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and shop around, every year, to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for your insurance. I would also suggest that you check out Plan G as another way to save a lot of money on your insurance premiums.

If you have any questions, or if you would like a free, no obligation quote, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’m always happy to help!

Ron Lewis OHCC AD

Also, your feedback and comments are appreciated!

Thanks!

Ron Lewis
Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
(760) 525-5769 – Cell
(866) 718-1600 – Toll-free

Tips and Tricks for Saving Money on Your Medicare Supplement

The purpose of this blog is to provide you with some tips and tricks that will help you save money on your Medicare Supplement insurance (aka Medigap), which is designed to cover most or all of the co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance not covered by Medicare. Since I am located in California and most of my clients are in California, the focus of this blog primarily applies to individuals living in California. With that said, a lot of the information in this blog still applies to other states as well, so hopefully, you will find this information useful no matter where you live.

IMPORTANT: Don’t confuse Medicare Advantage (MA) plans with Medicare Supplement plans! The two plans are entirely different! With a Medicare Supplement, you have much greater freedom of choice because you can go to ANY doctor, specialist, hospital, or care facility in the US as long as they accept Medicare. With MA plans, you are much more restricted because you can only go to doctors and hospitals within specific geographic networks, and with many MA plans, you have to see your preferred care provider first before you can see a specialist.

With MA plans, your annual co-payments and deductibles are significantly more expensive than traditional Medicare Supplement plans. In fact, depending on which MA plan you have, the maximum out-of-pocket costs can be as high as $6,700 per calendar year! With most Medicare Supplement plans, the most you will pay in out-of-pocket costs is no more than $183 per calendar year in 2017! So, if you are on a fixed budget, a Medicare Supplement plan will cost you a lot less if you get seriously ill. There are other reasons why Medicare Supplements are much better to have than MA plans, but that is a separate topic, and it’s beyond the scope of this blog.

The California Birthday Rule

happy-birthdayIn California, there is a law called the California Birthday Rule. If you have one of the 10 “standardized” Medicare Supplement plans, such as Plan F, Plan G, etc. and another insurance carrier is offering the same plan (or a different plan with fewer benefits), you are guaranteed the right to switch insurance carriers during the 30 days following your birthday, REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH and without medical underwriting or answering any health questions.

For example, if you have Plan F, and another insurance carrier is offering Plan F for a lower premium, you are guaranteed the right to switch to Plan F with the other carrier to save money on your premiums.

NOTE: You are guaranteed the right to switch insurance carriers to save money on your insurance premiums every year within 30 days of your birthday!

Tip: Although the California Birthday Rule specifies that you can apply for coverage during the 30 days AFTER your birthday each year, several insurance carriers have more liberal policies, and they let you apply during the 30 days BEFORE or AFTER your birthday. If you apply with a carrier that lets you apply during the 30 days before your birthday, your rates will usually be lower since your premium will be based on your age when the application was completed. Most carriers base their rates on your age after your birthday.)

Throughout the US, most states do not have a birthday rule similar to California’s. In these states, if your Medicare Supplement rates increase significantly, you would either have to pay the higher premium or complete a new application and apply for a new plan. You would have to answer the health questions on the application, and you could be turned down for coverage if you have any serious health issues.

TIP: If you live in California and you have a Medicare Supplement plan, you should take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and compare rates every year during the 30 days BEFORE your birthday to save money on your Medicare Supplement premiums.

Medicare-chart-2016

Tip: Notice in the chart above that Plan F and Plan G are identical except for the one-time per calendar year (Part B) deductible of $166. Many people have switched from Plan F to Plan G because most people save significantly more than $166 per year in premiums.

Qualifying for the California Birthday Rule

To qualify for the California Birthday Rule, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Live in California
  • Have a current Medicare Supplement plan
  • Switch to a plan with same or lesser benefits
  • Apply within 30 days of your birthday

Tip: Several insurance carriers will guarantee your rates and lock them in for the first 12 months. Others will guarantee your rates for only the first six months, and some won’t guarantee your rates at all. Although a 12-month rate guarantee is best, I would not recommend doing business with any insurance carrier that will not guarantee your rates for at least the first six month of your policy.

Tip: After the initial guaranteed rate lock period expires, an insurance carrier can raise rates at any time as long as they raise everyone’s rates. (You cannot be singled out.) By taking advantage of the California Birthday Rule and applying for new coverage every year, if you apply with a carrier that guarantees their rates for the first 12 months of your policy, you will not have to worry about any unexpected rate increases from one year to the next.

Attained Age

In California, most insurance carriers base their rates on your “attained age.” This means that as you get older, your Medicare Supplement rates usually increase in price after each birthday. Although the 10 Medicare Supplement plans are “standardized,” insurance premiums for these plans are not standardized, and rates vary significantly from one insurance carrier to the next for the same identical plan and coverage!

Attained Age

For example, for a 71 year old living in the 92056 zip code, the Plan F Medicare Supplement premiums range from $159.02 per month to $245.50 per month! That is a difference of $86.48 per month or $1,037.76 per year for the same identical plan and coverage!

You Can Apply for Medicare Supplements All Year Long!

Unlike MA plans that have an Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15th to December 7th every year for a January 1st effective date, you can apply for Medicare Supplement plans all year long.

open enrollment

If you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan at any time of the year other than during the annual 30-day open enrollment period (before or after your birthday), you will have to answer the health questions on the application. If you have certain health conditions, you could be turned down for coverage. If you are in relatively good health, you should not have any problem qualifying for a new Medicare Supplement plan.

NOTE: Some carriers have easier health underwriting requirements than others. 

TIP: If you have a Medicare Supplement plan and you have a serious health condition, take advantage of the California Birthday Rule. If you apply within 30 days of your birthday, you do not have to answer any of the health questions on the application, and you cannot be turned down for coverage due to health conditions.

Household Discounts

Some carriers give you a spousal or household discount (HHD) and others don’t. If you qualify for a HHD, some give more than others, from 5% to 12%! To qualify for a HHD, some carriers require both parties in the household to have a Medicare Supplement with the same company, and others only require that you live in the same household with another adult to qualify for the HHD. For example, if someone has a roommate that does not have a Medicare Supplement, they would still qualify for a HHD with some carriers but not others.

household discount

Tip: If you are married, have a domestic partner, or you have lived with another adult in the house for at least one year, some companies will give you up to 12% HHD on your insurance, even if your roommate doesn’t have a Medicare Supplement policy!

Which is Better, Plan F or Plan G?

Both of these plans are excellent plans. Plan F is considered to be the most comprehensive plan because it pays for all the co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance not covered by Medicare. Plan G is identical to Plan F in every way except with Plan G, you would pay a one-time per calendar year (Part B) deductible of $166. (The Part B deductible can change from one year to the next, but historically, the deductible has been stable.) Other than the Part B deductible, the two plans are exactly the same.

Plan F or Plan G

Many people have switched from Plan F to Plan G because the difference in premiums is usually significantly more than $166, so even if you end up paying for the Part B deductible, you are still saving money on your insurance premiums.

Tip: If you can save more than $166 per year by switching from Plan F to Plan G, it is more cost effective for you to have Plan G. Also, Plan F is a “guaranteed issue” plan during special enrollment periods (SEPs) such as loosing employer or MA plan coverage, etc., and Plan G is not a guaranteed issue plan. Consequently, the overall pool of applicants are healthier with Plan G. Historically, rate increases have been less with Plan G than Plan F for that reason. The government is also considering eliminating Plan F in the future for new Medicare subscribers. Individuals who currently have Plan F will be grandfathered in, and they will be able to keep their plans.

How Do I Change From a Medicare Advantage Plan to a Medicare Supplement?

If you join a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan for the first time, and you aren’t happy with the plan, you’ll have special rights to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan if you return to Original Medicare within the first 12 months after the MA plan began.

Medicare-Advantage Plans

If you have had a MA plan for more than one year, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which is from October 15th through December 7th each year for a January 1st effective date. You will have to answer the health questions and the application will be medically underwritten. If you have serious health issues, you could be turned down for coverage.

NOTE: If you have a MA plan and you don’t apply for a Medicare Supplement during the AEP, you have one more chance to do so after that date. You can switch from your MA to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). You can only make this coverage change if you have a MA plan. The MADP occurs every year from January 1 to February 14. During this period, you would have to answer questions on the application, and you will be medically underwritten.

Guaranteed Issue Rules for People with MA Plans

If you have a MA plan and health conditions, and you don’t meet the minimum health requirements for a Medicare Supplement, there are certain situations that may qualify you for a Medicare Supplement as a “guaranteed issue.”

No Health Questions

NOTE: Not all Medicare Supplement plans are available for guaranteed issue situations. The following plans are available for guaranteed issue situations: Plan A, B, C, F, K, and L. If you qualify for a guaranteed issue plan, there is no underwriting or waiting periods once coverage begins.

If you can answer YES to any of the following questions, you are probably eligible for a guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement plan:

  1. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan that is supplementing Medicare involuntarily terminated?
  2. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan stopped providing Medicare supplement benefits or the Medicare Part B 20% coinsurance for services?
  3. Have you lost eligibility for an employer-sponsored retiree plan due to divorce or death of a spouse or family member?
  4. Has your Medicare Advantage (MA) plan increased your premium or copayments by 15% or more, reduced your benefits, or terminated its relationship with your medical provider who was treating you?
  5. Have you moved out of the area of your MA plan or Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organization?
  6. Has your MA plan, Medicare SELECT Plan, PACE provider or any other health plan under contract with Medicare: (a) committed fraud; (b) ended or lost its contract with Medicare; (c) misrepresented the plan you bought, or (d) failed to meet its contractual obligations to Medicare beneficiaries, as determined by the federal government?
  7. Did you join a MA plan or PACE organization when you first became eligible for Medicare at age 65, and you want to switch to a Medicare Supplement policy during your first 12 months in the MA plan or PACE organization?
  8. Have you switched from a Medicare Supplement policy to a MA plan, PACE organization, Medicare SELECT plan, or any other health care organization contracting with Medicare, for the first time since becoming eligible for Medicare within the past 12 months?
  9. Has your MA plan left your area, and if so, did your MA plan benefits end within the past 123 days?

TIP: If you have an MA plan and you can’t answer Yes to any of these questions, take a closer look at item #4 above. Every year you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) from your current MA plan informing you of any differences in co-payments and deductibles you will have between this year and next year. Look closely at these differences in payments, and you can usually find a change in price that is at least 15% or more, which would qualify you for a guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement plan.

The following example shows a page from an ANOC. “Emergency Department visits” have increased from $65 per visit in 2015 to $75 per visit in 2016. This represents a 15.38% increase ($75 /$65 = 15.384%). This increase would qualify someone for a guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement plan if they wanted one.

ANOC

Shop Around Every Year!

Most people shop around periodically and compare rates on their auto and homeowner’s insurance. Medicare Supplement insurance is no different. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, it is critically important that you take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and shop around, EVERY YEAR, to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for your insurance premiums. You could literally be paying thousands of dollars more per year than you need to!

Shop Around

As an independent insurance agent, I work with ALL the major insurance carriers in California and several other states. I will do the shopping for you, EVERY YEAR, to make sure that you aren’t paying too much for your Medicare Supplement insurance premiums.

If you have any questions, need more information, or would like to compare rates, please contact me. I’m happy to help!

Your comments and feedback are appreciated!

Save Money On Your Medicare Supplement by Comparing Rates Each Year

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is helping my clients save money on their Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance premiums. Most of the time, I can usually save individual clients at least $30 to $50 per month ($360 to $600 per year) on their premiums. Occasionally, I have saved them as much as $1,000 to $1,200 per year on their premiums!

medigap

I don’t mean to come across as bragging, because I’m not. However, I am very happy and excited because this past week I was able to save one of my clients (a husband and wife on a fixed income) over $5,300 per year on their Medicare Supplement premiums!  I was able to do this just by simply switching them to the same exact plan that they had, but with a different carrier!

They had Plan G with another company for quite a few years, and they were very happy with the company and their coverage. Their insurance rates were very low when they originally took out their plans, and the company always paid their claims promptly and without a problem, just as most Medicare Supplement insurance companies do. However, over time, their rates crept up, slowly but steadily. Until this past week when they called me, they didn’t realize that they were literally paying thousands of dollars more for their insurance than they should be!

Most people shop around every year or two and compare rates on their auto and homeowner’s insurance. Medicare Supplements are no different. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, it is critically important that you shop around every year and compare rates between various companies because insurance rates vary significantly from one carrier to the next for the same identical plan and coverage. For example…

For a 72 year old female living in the 92056 zip code, the current Plan F rates range from $164.06 per month to $245.50 per month! That is a difference of $81.44 per month or $977.28 per year more for the same exact insurance coverage!

Attained Age

In California, Medicare Supplement insurance premiums are based on attained age. This means that as you get older, your rates usually continue to go up every year. Many companies start off at the “younger” ages (65 to 70) with very competitive rates, but over time, the rates continue to go up. Every company is different, and some companies raise their rates a lot more than others.

If you become complacent and don’t shop around every year to compare rates, you are probably paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more per year on your insurance premiums than you should be!

California Birthday Rule

In California, there is a law called the California Birthday Rule. This law allows anyone with a Medicare Supplement to switch to another insurance carrier every year within 30 days of their birthday (before or after), REGARDLESS OF THEIR HEALTH and without medical underwriting, if another insurance carrier is offering the same plan, such as Plan F, at a lower rate. During the annual 30-day open enrollment period, you are also guaranteed the right to switch to a “lesser” plan, such as from Plan F to Plan G, etc.

CA Birthday Rule

If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, you are guaranteed the right to shop around every year within 30 days of your birthday to save money on your insurance premiums. During this period, you cannot be turned down for coverage, regardless of your health.

You Can Apply for Medicare Supplement Plans All Year Long

Unlike Medicare Advantage plans that have an Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) from October 15th to December 7th every year for a January 1st effective date, you can apply for Medicare Supplement plans all year long. The only difference is that if you apply using the California Birthday Rule within 30 days of your birthday, you do not have to answer any of the health questions on the application, and you cannot be turned down for coverage due to health conditions.

If you apply for a Medicare Supplement plan any time of the year other than during your annual 30-day open enrollment period, you will have to answer the health questions on the application, and if you have certain health conditions, you could be turned down for coverage. If you are in relatively good health, you should not have any problem qualifying for a Medicare Supplement plan.

Guaranteed Issue Situations In California

In California, there are certain circumstances when you would qualify for a Medicare Supplement due to a guaranteed issue situation.

CA Bear

If you can answer YES to any of the following questions, you may be eligible for guaranteed issue:

  1. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan that is supplementing Medicare involuntarily terminated?
  2. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan stopped providing Medicare supplement benefits or the Medicare Part B 20% coinsurance for services?
  3. Have you lost eligibility for an employer-sponsored retiree plan due to divorce or death of a spouse or family member?
  4. Has your Medicare Advantage plan increased your premium or co-payments by 15% or more, reduced your benefits, or terminated its relationship with your medical provider who was treating you?
  5. Have you moved out of the area of your MA plan or Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organization?
  6. Has your MA plan, Medicare SELECT Plan, PACE provider or any other health plan under contract with Medicare: (a) committed fraud; (b) ended or lost its contract with Medicare; (c) misrepresented the plan you bought, or (d) failed to meet its contractual obligations to Medicare beneficiaries, as determined by the federal government?
  7. Did you join a MA plan or PACE organization when you first became eligible for Medicare at age 65, and you want to switch to a Medicare Supplement policy during your first 12 months in the MA plan or PACE organization?
  8. Have you switched from a Medicare Supplement policy to a MA plan, PACE organization, Medicare SELECT plan, or any other health care organization contracting with Medicare, for the first time since becoming eligible for Medicare within the past 12 months?
  9. Has your MA plan left your area, and if so, did your MA plan benefits end within the past 123 days?

NOTE: Many people with Medicare Advantage plans who have serious health issues can still qualify for a guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement plan. See item #4 above.

What Insurance Carriers Do I Work With?

As a licensed independent insurance agent, I work with ALL the major insurance carriers in California. Most importantly, I WORK FOR YOU, not a particular insurance company! I’m also licensed in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington state. Here are some, but not all, of the Medicare Supplement insurance carriers that I work with:

  • Aetna
  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Blue Shield of California
  • Cigna
  • Health Net
  • Humana
  • Individual Assurance Company (IAC)
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • Oxford
  • Stonebridge
  • Transamerica
  • UnitedHealthcare (AARP)
  • United of Omaha

Let Me Do the Shopping For You!

While it is unusual for me to be able to save most of my clients over $5,300 per year on their annual insurance premiums like I did this past week, it is not unusual for me to give someone a free, no obligation quote and save them anywhere from $300 to $500 per year on their Medicare Supplement premiums. That happens quite frequently.

As an independent insurance agent, I have access to insurance quote engines and other information that is not available to the public. You should take advantage of my knowledge and experience and let me do the shopping for you to save you money on your insurance premiums.

grocery-shopping-cartIf you have a Medicare Supplement plan, please contact me for a free, no obligation quote. More than likely, I will save you hundreds of dollars on your Medicare Supplement insurance premiums.

As one of my clients, I will contact you every year, about a month before your birthday, and I will let you know what the best rates are at that time. You always have the option to either keep your current plan, or you can take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and change carriers if another company is offering better rates.

Either way, I strive to build trust and relationships with my clients. I will not do a magic act and disappear after you have your new policy, 😉 and you will always have the peace of mind knowing that you are not paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than you should be for your Medicare Supplement insurance.

If you have any questions, or if you or anyone that you know would like a free Medicare Supplement quote, please contact me at (760) 652-6060 or toll-free at (866) 718-1600. You can also reach me by email at Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com. Your questions and feedback are always welcome!

How to Use the Medicare.gov Website to Purchase a Prescription Drug Plan

The Medicare open enrollment period just started, and it goes from October 15th through December 7th. During this period, you can choose a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) that will begin on January 1st, 2016. Many people are confused because they don’t know how to shop around for a PDP. You don’t have to be an “expert” or a rocket scientist to purchase your own PDP. The purpose of this blog is to help you save money on your insurance premiums and find a PDP that is right for you.

IMPORTANT If you decide not to join a Medicare drug plan when you’re first eligible, and you don’t have other creditable prescription drug coverage, and you don’t get Extra Help, you’ll likely pay a late enrollment penalty if you join a plan later.

Medicare SimplifiedAccessing the Medicare.gov Website

If you have access to a computer and the Internet, shopping around for a PDP is really quite easy. If you’re ready to begin, follow these steps:

1.)  Navigate to the Medicare.gov website.

PDP1-0003x2.)  Under the blue tab at the top left-side of page that says Sign Up/Change Plans, click Find health & drug plans.

PDP1-0004xThe Medicare Plan Finder page displays.

PDP3-0001x3.)  In the General Search section, enter your zip code and click Find Plans. The Step 1 of 4 page displays.

NOTE If a survey window displays, close it and continue.

PDP1-0007x4.)  In the first section, select Original Medicare, and in the second section, select I don’t get any Extra Help. After that, click Continue to Plan Results. The Step 2 of 4 window displays.

NOTE You can choose other options that are more appropriate for your situation.

PDP1-0009x5.)  Enter your prescriptions in the text box and choose the appropriate dosages for each. A window, similar to the following, displays.

PDP1-0010x6.)  After you select the appropriate prescription dose, click Add drug and dosage.

NOTE: Continue adding your prescriptions until your prescription drug list is complete. You can add up to 25 prescriptions, and you can see your list in the lower part of the window. You can also choose “mail order pharmacy” to have your prescriptions mailed to you. In some instances, it is more cost effective to do that. If you select “mail order pharmacy,” information for both retail pharmacies and mail order options will display.

7.)  Write down the Drug List ID number AND the Password Date on a separate piece of paper.

NOTE The prescriptions, dosages, etc. that you entered are saved, and you can enter this number and the date later on to retrieve your prescription information instead of reentering it again.

Medigap PDP Window2x8.)  Click My Drug List is Complete when your drug list is complete. The Step 3 of 4 window displays.

PDP1-0014x9.)  Click Add Pharmacy to add up to two pharmacies, and then click Continue to Plan Results. The Step 4 of 4 window displays.

NOTE You can click the drop-down menu at the top of the page to select from more pharmacies near your zip code.

PDP3-0002x10.)  Click the check box next to Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare), and then click Continue to Plan Results. The Your Plan Results window displays.

PDP1-0019NOTE By default, the prescription drug plans are sorted from the lowest to highest estimated annual retail drug cost. In the Plan Results window, click View All to see all the plans.

Understanding the Plan Results Window

After you access the Plan Results window, you are ready to evaluate and compare prescription drug plans and decide which plan is best for you.

There are different variables to take into consideration when choosing a PDP. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • Are drugs on the formulary?
  • Drug restrictions
  • Estimated annual drug costs
  • Annual drug deductible
  • Monthly premium
  • Overall star rating of the company

Are Drugs on the Formulary?

If a drug is not on the PDP formulary, that means that the plan does not offer coverage for that specific drug, and you should continue looking at other plans.

Drug Restrictions

If there are drug restrictions, the plan may have certain coverage restrictions (including quantity limits, prior authorization, etc.) on a prescription drug. Although your prescription may have limitations, these limits may not necessarily adversely affect you, and the plan may still meet your needs. For example, if you take 30 pills a month and the plan will cover a maximum of 60 per month, that would not impact you, and the plan is still worth considering.

Estimated Annual Costs

This is an estimate of the average amount you might expect to pay each year for your prescription drug coverage. This estimate includes the following costs:

  • Monthly premiums
  • Annual deductible
  • Drug copayments/coinsurance
  • Drug costs not covered by prescription drug insurance

If you entered your drugs into the Medicare Plan Finder, then this estimate includes the cost of those drugs.

IMPORTANT If your prescriptions are covered by the plan’s formulary and there are no major drug restrictions on the plan, this is the critical piece of information you need to determine which plan you select because it factors in all your premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and miscellaneous drug costs for the entire year. I don’t really factor in the various co-payments of each prescription; the estimated annual costs tell you approximately how much you will spend during the entire year.

Compare the estimated total annual pharmacy and mail order costs between the different plans to determine which plan offers you the best deal for the entire year!

PDP1-0019xNOTE In the previous example, the total retail annual costs for Humana are approximately $341 compared to $221 for the mail order costs. For Aetna, the total retail costs are approximately $347 compared to $387 for the mail order costs. Therefore, in this example, the most cost-effective option is to purchase the Humana PDP and use their mail order service.

If you selected “I don’t take any drugs,” then this amount includes only the cost of the monthly premiums that you would pay for the plan and it does not include any drug costs. If you selected “I don’t want to add drugs now,” then this estimate includes the average drug costs for people with Medicare and may differ depending on your age and health status.

Annual Drug Deductible

Some plans have no annual deductible and others have a maximum annual deductible up to $360 per year. Again, use the estimated annual costs to determine the value of the plan, not just the deductibles, the co-payments, etc.

Monthly Premium

The lowest monthly premium (and deductible) does not necessarily mean that you will be saving the most money. Again, compare the estimated annual drug cost to determine which plan is the most cost effective.

Overall Star Rating of the Company

For plans covering drug services, the overall score for quality of those services covers many different topics that fall into four categories:

  • Drug plan customer service: Includes how well the plan handles member appeals.
  • Member complaints and changes in the drug plan’s performance: Includes how often Medicare found problems with the plan and how often members had problems with the plan. Includes how much the plan’s performance has improved (if at all) over time.
  • Member experience with plan’s drug services: Includes ratings of member satisfaction with the plan.
  • Drug safety and accuracy of drug pricing: Includes how accurate the plan’s pricing information is and how often members with certain medical conditions are prescribed drugs in a way that is safer and clinically recommended for their condition.

If the plan has a low star rating, I would not recommend signing up for it.

Drilling Down a Little Deeper on the Medicare.gov Website

To get more information about a specific plan, click on the name of the plan, which is a hypertext link. In the following example, click Humana Walmart Rx Plan (PDP).

Medigap2-0002a

After you click the name of the plan, a window, similar to the following, displays.

Medigap2-0003a

The previous window shows the phone numbers, for members and non-members.

NOTE  If you have questions about the plan or wish to enroll, you would call the phone number for non-members. For more information, see “Signing Up for a PDP Plan” below.

Medigap2-0006a

The previous window shows the estimated monthly totals for prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy.

Medigap2-0007a

The previous window shows the estimated monthly cost (premium and deductible) for prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy.

Medigap2-0008a

The previous window shows the estimated monthly cost (premium and deductible) for prescriptions at Costco Pharmacy.

Medigap2-0009a

The previous window shows the estimated monthly cost (premium and deductible) for prescriptions through a mail order pharmacy.

Medigap2-0010a

The previous window shows drug coverage information, such as formulary status and Tier information, for the various prescriptions you entered on the Medicare.gov website.

Signing Up for a PDP Plan

After you have evaluated and compared several prescription drug plans, you are ready to sign up for a PDP on your own.

Follow these steps to sign up for a prescription drug plan:

1.)  From the Your Plan Details window, click on the hypertext name of the plan you are interested in. In the following example, click Humana Walmart Rx Plan (PDP).

Medigap2-0002a

After you click the name of the plan you are interested in, a window, similar to the following, displays.

Medigap2-0003a

2.) Call the toll-free number for non-members, and speak to a representative of the company.

IMPORTANT  If you have questions about the plan or wish to enroll, you would call the phone number for non-members. When you decide to enroll, call the plan and verify that your prescriptions are covered by the plan and that the estimated annual retail pharmacy or mail order drug costs are accurate. You want to make sure that you are interpreting and understanding the information correctly from the Medicare.gov website.

Conclusion

After you go to the Medicare.gov website and play around with it a little, you will find that signing up for a prescription drug plan is really quite easy.

NOTE  If you are having trouble signing up for a prescription drug plan or if you ever have Medicare questions or need help understanding information on the Medicare.gov website, call 1-800-MEDICARE. They are open 24 x 7, and most of the representatives are very helpful.

My primary specialty is Medicare Supplement insurance, but if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at RonLewisInsurance@yahoo.com.

Want to Change Your Medicare Advantage Plan to a Medicare Supplement Plan During AEP?

MEDICARE_MazeThe Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans (Part C) is almost here! If you have an Advantage plan and you’d like to change to a traditional Medicare Supplement plan, you can apply during the upcoming AEP, which is from October 15th through December 7th, for an effective date of January 1st, 2016.

If you have an Advantage plan or a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP), this is the one time of year to make changes to your health and/or prescription drug plans for the following year. To make these changes, the plan has to receive your enrollment request (application) no later than December 7th. If you stay with the same plan that you had, any changes to coverage, benefits, or costs for the new year will also begin on January 1st.

What is the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC)

Medicare_AdvantageIf you have an Advantage plan, your plan will send you an “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) each fall. The ANOC includes any changes in coverage, costs, provider networks, or service areas that will be effective in January. These are usually mailed out in September by your Advantage plan. After you receive your notice, review any changes to decide whether the plan will continue to meet your needs during the following year. If you don’t receive this important notice, contact your Advantage plan and request that they send it to you.

IMPORTANT: If you have health conditions that may prevent you from meeting the underwriting requirements for a Medicare Supplement, the ANOC may qualify you for one of the “guaranteed issue” situations listed below.

Minimum Health Requirements for a Medicare Supplement

To apply for a Medicare Supplement during the AEP, you must complete a Medicare Supplement application, which includes a section with health questions. If you have serious health issues, there is a good chance that your application will be turned down. However, there are certain “guaranteed issue” situations that you may qualify for. This means that you will not have to answer any of the health questions on the application, and you cannot be turned down!

In the “Eligibility for Guaranteed Issue In California” section below, there are nine situations that would guarantee you the right to change your Advantage plan to a Medicare Supplement plan, REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH, without answering any health questions on the application!

Carefully check the ANOC. If your Medicare Advantage plan has increased your premium or co-payments by 15% or more, reduced your benefits, or terminated its relationship with your medical provider who was treating you, YOU PROBABLY QUALIFY FOR A GUARANTEED ISSUE MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLAN!

Guaranteed Issue Rights

Guaranteed issue rights are rights you have in certain situations when insurance companies MUST offer you certain Medicare Supplement policies (plans A, B, C, F, K, or L). In these situations, an insurance company:

  • Must sell you a Medicare Supplement policy
  • Must cover all your pre-existing health conditions
  • Can’t charge you more for a Medicare Supplement policy because of past or present health problems

In most cases, you have a guaranteed issue right when you have other health coverage that changes in some way, such as when you lose the other health care coverage. In other cases, you have a “trial right” to try an Advantage plan and still buy a Medicare Supplement policy if you change your mind.

Medicare_Supplement

Eligibility for Guaranteed Issue In California

In California, you would qualify for a guaranteed issue Medicare Supplement for any of the following situations:

  1. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan that is supplementing Medicare involuntarily terminated?
  2. Has your employer-sponsored retiree plan stopped providing Medicare supplement benefits or the Medicare Part B 20% coinsurance for services?
  3. Have you lost eligibility for an employer-sponsored retiree plan due to divorce or death of a spouse or family member?
  4. Has your Medicare Advantage plan increased your premium or co-payments by 15% or more, reduced your benefits, or terminated its relationship with your medical provider who was treating you?
  5. Have you moved out of the area of your MA plan or Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organization?
  6. Has your MA plan, Medicare SELECT Plan, PACE provider or any other health plan under contract with Medicare: (a) committed fraud; (b) ended or lost its contract with Medicare; (c) misrepresented the plan you bought, or (d) failed to meet its contractual obligations to Medicare beneficiaries, as determined by the federal government?
  7. Did you join a MA plan or PACE organization when you first became eligible for Medicare at age 65, and you want to switch to a Medicare Supplement policy during your first 12 months in the MA plan or PACE organization?
  8. Have you switched from a Medicare Supplement policy to a MA plan, PACE organization, Medicare SELECT plan, or any other health care organization contracting with Medicare, for the first time since becoming eligible for Medicare within the past 12 months?
  9. Has your MA plan left your area, and if so, did your MA plan benefits end within the past 123 days?

Purchasing a Medicare Supplement Insurance Policy if You’ve Lost Your Health Care Coverage

If you believe that you have a guaranteed issue right to purchase a Medicare Supplement policy, make sure you keep the following items:

  • A copy of any letters, notices, emails, and/or claim denials that have your name on them as proof of your coverage being terminated.
  • The postmarked envelope these papers come in as proof of when it was mailed.
  • You may need to send a copy of some or all of these papers with your Medicare Supplement application to prove you have a guaranteed issue right.
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan but you’re planning to return to Original Medicare, you can apply for a Medicare Supplement policy before your coverage ends. The Medicare Supplement insurer can sell it to you as long as you’re leaving the plan. Ask that the new policy take effect no later than when your Medicare Advantage enrollment ends, so you’ll have continuous coverage.

Which is Better, a Medicare Supplement or an Advantage Plan?

This topic is big enough to have its own blog! Personally, I strongly prefer Medicare Supplements over Advantage plans because you can go to ANY doctor or hospital in the US as long as they accept Medicare, and most of them do. With an Advantage plan, you are limited to their local networks of doctors and hospitals, and that is a major disadvantage. Also, a lot of people seem to think that Advantage plans cost less than Medicare Supplements, but if you are every hospitalized or develop a serious medical condition, you will be spending thousands of dollars on co-payments and deductibles with your Advantage plan.

Here are some pros and cons when comparing Medicare Supplements to Advantage plans.

Medigap Advantage Comparison ChartFor the reasons mentioned above, I would recommend Medicare Supplements over Advantage plans. If you are relatively healthy, an Advantage plan may be okay. But if you later develop serious health conditions, you’ll wish you had a Medicare Supplement because you should have the freedom to go to the best doctors, hospitals, specialists, and facilities ANYWHERE in the United States!

Peace of Mind Next Exit

If you (or someone you know) have an Advantage plan and you have any questions or would like to find out more about Medicare Supplement plans, please contact me at Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com. As an independent agent, I work with ALL the major insurance carriers in California, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona, and I’ll shop around for you to get you the best rates.

Everyone’s Least Favorite Insurance Topic…

Can you guess what it is? In the past, I used to specialize in long-term care insurance (LTCi), and I’d joke that it was probably the second to the last favorite type of insurance that people wanted to think about or talk about next to Final Expense (burial) insurance. After all, who can get excited about spending money for a piece of paper that you hope you’ll never use?

Final Expense2

Most people don’t get emotional when they talk about automobile insurance, health insurance, or homeowners (fire) insurance, but when it comes to long-term care insurance or final expense insurance, that’s different. For many people, these are sensitive and uncomfortable subjects, which is understandable. However, the risk of a long-term care stay is significantly higher than the risk of an auto accident, a home fire, being hospitalized, etc. And I wonder what the risk of dying is? I’d venture to say that it’s probably around 100%!  😉 As my good (and cynical) friend likes to say, “There’s no getting out of here alive!”

Personally, I don’t get emotional when I think about insurance. I look at it strictly as a financial planning tool and nothing else. It is there to protect my loved ones and my assets, and I don’t want to get my money’s worth out of it! Although I’m sure that many of you reading this article cannot wait for me to delve into the topic of long-term care insurance, you’ll have to be patient and wait because I am going to focus on everyone’s least favorite insurance topic for now, which is Final Expense insurance!

What is Final Expense (Burial) Insurance?
Final expense plans are small, permanent whole-life insurance policies that are specifically designed to handle the last expenses a person’s family must handle for them including funeral costs, outstanding medical bills, and any other unexpected expenses or debt that may be left behind. Because they are whole-life and not term-life insurance policies, the premiums are locked in. Once you select the amount of coverage you want, the premiums are guaranteed to never increase for as long as you hold the policy, and the policy will never expire as long as you pay the premiums.

final-expense-101

In addition, some policies include a small cash value component where tax-deferred savings can be built up over time. These funds may be withdrawn or borrowed against if you decide to do so. However, any unpaid loans or withdrawals will reduce the policy’s death benefit.

Today, funeral expenses can easily cost more than $10,000. Although the cost of a funeral may surprise you, if you plan ahead, a final expense plan can help reduce the burden of these costs on your family and help them focus on what is most important during a difficult time. Having a final expense plan in place can be a very loving and considerate thing to do, and it will give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have planned ahead to ease the burden on loved ones.

Peace of Mind Next Exit

Two Types of Final Expense Benefit Levels

Final expense plans usually have two types of benefit levels:

  • Graded Benefit – The application process for these kind of final expense plans is the simplest and easiest. No medical exam is required and there are no health questions to answer. These plans are a guaranteed issue! You cannot be turned down, REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH, as long as you meet the age requirements. There is usually a 24-month waiting period before the full face amount of the policy is in force. If death occurs within the first two policy years for any reason other than an accident, all premiums plus 10% interest are usually paid to the beneficiary. After the initial two year period, the full benefit is paid for death due to all causes.
  • Level Benefit – The full face amount of the policy will be in-force the day the application is approved. The premiums for these policies are more competitive because health questions will be asked at the time of application. If someone wants a final expense plan, they should first apply for a level benefit final expense plan if they are in relatively good health. If they have health issues that might prevent them from getting accepted, they can always get a graded benefit plan.

Premiums Never Increase

Once you select the amount of coverage that you want, your premiums are guaranteed to never increase for as long as you hold the policy. The rates are based on your age at the time you signed the application, and they will never increase in the future.

Sample Rates For a Graded Benefit Final Expense Plan

Gerber Life Insurance Company, which is a financially separate affiliate of the Gerber Products Company, offers a graded benefit final expense plan. With their plan, if you are a US citizen or permanent legal resident between the ages of 50 and 80, you can choose from $5,000 to $25,000 in guaranteed life insurance. Plus, under current federal law, the death benefit is not subject to federal income tax when paid to a named beneficiary.

The following chart shows some sample monthly premiums for the Gerber Life graded benefit final expense plan:

Sample Monthly Final Expense Rates

As you can see, the monthly premium for a $10,000 final expense plan for a 60 year old male is $56.65. For a 60 year old female, the monthly premium is $46.48 per month. Again, these rates will never increase and the plan cannot be canceled for any reason as long as the premiums are paid.

Sample Rates For a Level Benefit Final Expense Plan

United of Omaha Life Insurance Company offers a level benefit final expense plan, and their application is a simple one that has 10 health questions. If you answer “No” to every question, you would be eligible for their level benefit product. With their plan, if you are between the ages of 45 and 85, you can choose from $2,000 to $40,000 in life insurance.

The monthly premium for a $10,000 level benefit final expense plan for a 60 year old male is $42.76. For a 60 year old female, the premium is $32.87 per month. Again, these rates will never increase and the plan cannot be canceled for any reason as long as the premiums are paid.

Which Final Expense Plan (Level Benefit or Graded Benefit) Has the Best Rates?

If you are in relatively good health and you don’t have any serious medical conditions, you should first apply for a level benefit final expense plan because the rates would be less than the rates for a graded benefit final expense plan. For example, the monthly premium for a United of Omaha Life Insurance Company $10,000 level benefit final expense plan for a 60 year old male and female is currently $42.76 and $32.87 per month, respectively, compared to $56.65 and $46.48 per month for the Gerber Life graded benefit final expense plan. As you can see, the level benefit rates are more competitively priced than the graded benefit rates.

Again, final expense is probably everyone’s least favorite insurance topic, but it is something that should be taken into consideration, without emotion, as a financial planning tool, and nothing more. Remember, it’s peace of mind.

For more information or to get a quote, please give me a call at (760) 525-5769.

Which is Better, Medicare Supplement Plan F or Plan G?

Today, there are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans (Plans A through N). The coverage for these plans is the same no matter which insurance company you have. For example, the coverage and benefits for Plan F is exactly the same at Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield, Stonebridge, Blue Cross, etc., so it’s much easier to shop around and compare plans and prices today.

As you can see in the following chart, Plan F provides the most extensive Medicare Supplement coverage. (The plans with the empty boxes indicate coverage that is not included with that particular plan.)

Medicare Chart

Of the 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans (aka “Medigap” plans), Plan F is considered to be the best plan because it provides the most comprehensive coverage. Plan F pays for all of the coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles not paid for by Medicare.

Plan F pays for the following benefits:

  • Medicare Part A Hospital Deductible (Currently $1,216 per benefit period) *
  • Medicare Part A Hospital Coinsurance
  • Medicare Part B Deductible (Currently $147 per year)
  • Medicare Part B Coinsurance
  • Medicare Part B Excess Charges
  • Hospice Care Coinsurance or Copayments
  • Skilled Nursing Facility Care Coinsurance
  • Charges for First Three Pints of Blood
  • Foreign Travel Emergencies

* A benefit period begins on the first day you receive service as an inpatient in a hospital and ends after you have been out of the hospital and have not received skilled care in any other facility for 60 days in a row. Therefore, there can be multiple Part A hospital deductibles in one calendar year.

Which is Better, Plan F or Plan G?

Which is Better, Plan F or Plan G?

Plan F and Plan G include the following benefits:

  • Freedom to choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare patients.
  • Benefits start immediately with no waiting period for pre-existing conditions.
  • There are no networks and no referral needed.
  • No cancellation for age, health or the number of claims you file.
  • Covers 100% of all Medicare allowable excess charges.
  • Coverage that expands automatically with any future changes in Medicare.
  • Virtually eliminates all claims paperwork for you.
  • 30-day, no-risk free look guarantees your satisfaction or you get your money back.

Medicare Plan G Is Identical To Plan F Except For the Part B Deductible

Medicare Plan G provides the same identical coverage as Plan F except it does not cover the $147 Part B calendar year deductible (in bold above). That is the only difference between the two plans. They are exactly the same in every other way! Plan F and Plan G are the only two Medicare Supplement plans that pay 100% of any excess charges, so there would rarely be any unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. (Excess charges are additional expenses incurred outside of the Medicare-approved charge. For example, if you go to a doctor that charges more than the Medicare-approved amount.)

Why Would I Choose Medicare Plan G Over Plan F?

The decision to go with Plan G depends on whether the annual savings will exceed the $147 Part B deductible. For example, if your Plan G premiums are $30 per month less than the Plan F premiums, then you will save $360 per year in premiums ($30 x 12 = $360). If you are healthy, and you didn’t go to a doctor that year, you would have saved $360 on your premiums. If you had to pay the $147 Part B deductible, then you still would have saved $213 for the year in premiums ($360 – $147 = $213). On the other hand, if your annual premium savings would be just slightly more than, equal to, or less than $147 per year, then you are unquestionably better off with Plan F.

The Likelihood of Future Rate Increases is Less With Plan G Than With Plan F

Under federal law, Plan F falls under certain Guaranteed Issue (GI) requirements while Plan G doesn’t. For example, if someone has their health insurance with an employer plan or if they are on a Medicare Advantage plan and they loose their coverage, in most cases, they are guaranteed the right to switch to Plan F, regardless of their health and without medical underwriting.

Plan G is not a guaranteed issue plan. Consequently, the overall pool of people with Plan G are healthier than those on Plan F, and the quantity of submitted medical claims is lower with Plan G. Rate increases are often a result of too much GI business, so “F” plans have historically had greater and more frequent rate increases than “G” plans. That’s not a guarantee that “G” plans won’t have future rate increases, but if they do, the increases will more than likely be smaller.

Make the Switch!

Make the Switch!

The Only Potential Risk That I See With Plan G…

The only potential risk that I see for the future is that nobody knows for sure what the Part B deductible for Medicare will be in the future. Between 2011 and 2012, the Part B deductible actually went down from $162 per year to $140 per year. For the last few years, from 2013 through 2015, the Part B deductible has been stable and remained the same at $147 per year.

Here is the history of Medicare Part B deductibles:

  • 2017 — $183
  • 2016 — $166
  • 2015 — $147
  • 2014 — $147
  • 2013 — $147
  • 2012 — $140
  • 2011 — $162
  • 2010 — $155
  • 2009 — $135
  • 2008 — $135
  • 2007 — $131
  • 2006 — $124
  • 2005 — $110
  • 1991 through 2004 the Part B deductible was $100
  • 1982 through 1990 the Part B deductible was $75
  • 1973 through 1981 the Part B deductible was $60
  • 1966 through 1972 the Part B deductible was $50

As you can see, the historical Part B deductible rates have been relatively stable over the years. For me, it wouldn’t be an issue if I could otherwise save $200 to $300 per year by having a Plan G Medicare Supplement. On the other hand, many of my clients can afford to pay for the best and most comprehensive plan, Plan F, and they don’t want the uncertainty of not knowing for sure what the future will bring. Saving $200 to $300 per year isn’t always a big enough motivator for many to warrant switching from Plan F to Plan G. Then again, many retirees are on tight budgets and fixed incomes, and if that is the case, I would unquestionably recommend that they switch from Plan F to Plan G if they can save money on their premiums.

The California Birthday Rule

With the California Birthday Rule, you are guaranteed the right to switch plans every year within 30 days after your birthday, regardless of your health and without underwriting, if another company is offering the same plan or a lesser plan for less money. In other words, if you have Plan F, you can switch to Plan F with a different company if their rates are lower, or you could switch from Plan F to Plan G with a different company since Plan G is considered to have less benefits (the $147 Part B deductible) than Plan F. Rates vary significantly from one company to the next for the same identical plan and coverage, so it’s important to shop around every year.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Did You Know About These Free Medicare Preventive Services and Screenings?

I’m in the process of taking some Medicare certification courses, and I came across some important information that you (or a friend or family member) may not be aware of. Did you know that under your Medicare Part B benefits, you are entitled to certain preventive services and screenings, and there is no cost-sharing for most of these services?  Please take a few minutes and check these out. You may find some benefits that you didn’t realize you were entitled to!

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Preventive Services Include the Following:

  • One-time “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam
  • Annual wellness visit after 12 mos. enrolled in Part B
  • Immunizations – pneumococcal, hepatitis B, annual flu shot
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening – one time, with referral
  • Alcohol misuse screening – every 12 months for certain individuals
  • Bone mass measurement – every 24 months for certain conditions
  • Cardiovascular screening blood tests – every five years for all persons
  • Colorectal cancer screening – four different tests, vary in frequency
  • Depression Screening – every 12 months
  • Diabetes screenings – up to two per year for those with risk factors
  • Diabetes self-management training – for persons with diabetes
  • Glaucoma testing – once per year for those at high risk
  • HIV Screening
  • Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease – one face-to-face visit annually in a primary care setting
  • Mammogram (Breast Cancer Screening) – annual screening for most women
  • Medical nutrition therapy – for those with diabetes/kidney disease or kidney transplant
  • Obesity Screening and counseling – for certain individuals
  • Pap test and pelvic examination – every 24 mos. for all women; every 12 mos. for those at high risk
  • Prostate cancer screening – every 12 mos. for men over age 50
  • Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and High Intensity Behavioral
  • Counseling to Prevent STIs – for certain individuals
  • Smoking cessation counseling – for any illness related to tobacco use

Other Part B Items and Services:

  • Ambulance services
  • Ambulatory surgical center fees
  • Blood
  • Cardiac rehabilitation–for certain situations
  • Chiropractic services–for limited situations
  • Clinical research studies – some costs of certain care in approved studies
  • Defibrillator (implantable automatic)
  • Diabetic supplies
  • Durable medical equipment – restricted to certain suppliers in some areas
  • Emergency room services
  • Eyeglasses after cataract surgery – limits apply
  • Foot exams and treatment for certain diabetics
  • Hearing and balance exams (no hearing aids)
  • Home health services in certain situations
  • Kidney dialysis and disease education – certain situations
  • Mental health care (outpatient) – limits apply
  • Occupational and physical therapy – limits apply
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD
  • Prosthetic/Orthotic items
  • Second surgical opinions
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Telehealth services in some rural areas
  • Tests like X-rays, MRIs, CT scans
  • Transplant physician services and drugs

The Following Items Are Not Covered by Medicare Part A & B:

  • Acupuncture
  • Dental care/dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Custodial care
  • Health care while traveling outside the US – exceptions apply
  • Hearing aids
  • Orthopedic shoes
  • Outpatient prescription drugs (covered under Part D)
  • Routine foot care
  • Routine eye care and eyeglasses
  • Some screening tests and labs
  • Vaccines, except as previously listed (those not covered under Part B are covered under Part D)
  • Syringes and insulin unless used with an insulin pump (covered under Part D)

IMPORTANT WARNING REGARDING YOUR MEDICARE COVERAGE!

If you are on Medicare and you need to be admitted to a hospital, DO NOT let the hospital admit you with the words “UNDER OBSERVATION.” Insist on being admitted as “IN-PATIENT.” Otherwise, there is a good chance that you will be responsible for most or all of the hospital expenses, and you will be prevented from accessing nursing home care, rehabilitative care, etc. Click here to watch a recent NBC news television broadcast regarding this problem.

I Specialize in Medicare Supplement Insurance!

For an INSTANT Medicare Supplement insurance quote in California or Washington state, or for more information about long-term care (LTC) insurance, linked-benefit plans, critical care, etc., please call or visit my website.

The Simplest Explanation of Obamacare…

I can’t really take credit for writing the bullet points below (they were sent to me in an email), but I thought this was the best and simplest explanation I’ve seen so far to describe Obamacare…

  • In order to insure the uninsured, we first have to un-insure the insured.
  • Next we require the newly un-insured to be re-insured.
  • To re-insure the newly un-insured, they are required to pay extra charges to be re- insured.
  • The extra charges are required so that the original insured, who became un-insured, and then re-insured, can pay enough extra so that the original un-insured can be insured for free.
  • There… Now you understand what is going on.

ObamacareThis is exactly what happened to my family. We were happily insured and then we received our cancellation letter from Blue Shield, which I affectionately refer to as “BS.” 😉 Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, our health insurance coverage for EIGHT family members was $975.60 per month, which I thought was a little pricey. BS told us that a “comparable” ACA plan was the “Bronze” plan, which was the cheapest ACA plan available. Our “new and improved” ACA health insurance rates more than doubled to $1,995.48 per month! Wait a minute, I thought President Obama promised to save the average American family $2,500 per year? (Please click here to see for yourself.)

Besides that, our co-payments and deductibles increased significantly from what they were before, but I am thankful to now have maternity coverage, even though I’m a 61 year old male! I’m also relieved to know that more than 16,000 new IRS agents have been hired to enforce Obamacare!

Although I’m laughing and joking about this on the outside, it’s really no laughing matter because the simple explanation mentioned above is true! Real people are being harmed by this reckless law, and millions more are being adversely affected by the ACA than those who are benefiting from it. For more details about our personal experience, please refer to my earlier blog, “Is the Affordable Care Act Really Affordable?”