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?”
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.”
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” 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!
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!
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!
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:
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:
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!
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!”
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!