Upcoming Medicare Supplement Changes Beginning on July 1st, 2020

As of July 1st, 2020, under Senate Bill No. 407, the California Birthday Rule will be changing. Under the current law, for those individuals that have a Medicare Supplement, also known as Medigap, you can change your current plan to any Medigap plan that offers benefits “equal to or lesser than” your current plan during the 30 days following your birthday each year.

Under the new law, you will have the same opportunity to change plans, but the 30 day period has been extended to 60 days.

July-1st Use

Nationwide, there are 10 standardized Medigap plans to choose from, Plan A through Plan N. The term “standardized” means that every Plan F, every Plan G, every Plan N, etc. has the same exact coverage and benefits no matter what insurance carrier you have your coverage with. In other words, Plan F is Plan F, Plan G is Plan G, Plan N is Plan N, etc. Because Medigap plans are standardized, it is much easier to compare “apples with apples.”

Medigap Plans Are Standardized but Rates Aren’t

Although Medigap plans are standardized, Medigap rates are not standardized, and they vary widely between insurance carriers. For example, in the 92009 zip code in San Diego, for a 72 year old male, Plan G rates range from $165.78 per month to $223.47 per month. That’s a difference of $57.69 per month or $692.28 per year for the same identical plan and coverage!

Medicare-Supplement-Plan-Chart

Medigap rates are based primarily on your age and zip code, and whether you use tobacco or not. In California, rates usually increase every year as we get older. An insurance carrier that has competitive rates this year may increase rates and not be as competitive next year. For this reason, it is very important to take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and shop around every year to make sure that you aren’t paying too much money for your Medigap insurance premiums.

This is a free service that I provide to all of my California clients every year around their birthday.

NOTE: You can change your Medigap plan or insurance carrier any time of the year, but if you do so other than around your birthday, you will have to answer health questions on the application, and your application will be medically underwritten, and you could be turned down for coverage. If you have a serious health condition, you should definitely take advantage of the California Birthday Rule and apply around your birthday. That way, you cannot be turned down for coverage, REGARDLESS OF YOUR HEALTH.

Innovative Medigap Plans Are Also Changing On July 1st

There is another significant change that will be occurring beginning on July 1st under Senate Bill No. 407. Several insurance carriers have recently introduced new “Innovative” Medigap plans that are the same as the standardized plans, but they also include some additional non-medical coverage for such things as hearing and vision.

For example, Blue Shield of California replaced their “standardized” Plan F with a different plan called “Plan F Extra.” Anthem Blue Cross offers two different Plan F Medigap plans, Plan F and “Plan F Innovative,” which also includes some additional coverage for vision and hearing. And Health Net now offers two different Plan F supplements as well, Plan F and “Plan F Innovative.” Blue Shield currently offers two Plan G Medigap plan, Plan G and “Plan G Extra,” and Health Net offers Plan G and and a “Plan G Innovative” plan as well.

As you can see, the recent introduction to these newer innovative plans has made the Medigap marketplace confusing and defeated the purpose of having standardized Medigap plans. It is no longer so easy to compare Medigap plans and benefits because the “extra” and “innovative” benefits are all similar yet slightly different from each other.

The real problem however, is that when someone wants to take advantage of their open enrollment period under the California Birthday Rule, Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross do not allow someone with a “regular” Plan F or Plan G to switch to one of their “Extra” or “Innovative” plans. Both of these companies claim that their innovative plans have “richer” benefits, and they do not qualify under the California Birthday Rule.

birthday-rule candles

Furthermore, Blue Shield no longer offers their “regular” Plan F, only their Plan F Extra, so this has prevented anyone with Plan F with a different insurance carrier to switch to Blue Shield’s Plan F during their annual open enrollment period under the birthday rule. And you would think that someone with Blue Shield’s Plan F Extra could switch to Anthem’s Plan F Innovative plan under the California Rule or vice versa around their birthday, but no. Neither carrier will accept these plans during someone’s 30 day open enrollment period because they consider their plans superior to the other carrier’s plan.

NOTE: Health Net has always allowed someone with the “regular” Plan F or Plan G to switch to their Plan F Innovative or Plan G Innovative plans.

As of July 1st, 2020, Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross, and all insurance carriers are now required to accept any Plan F or Plan G Medigap plans for any of their innovative Medigap plans under the California Birthday Rule! For example, if you have Plan F with Mutual of Omaha, you can now switch to Blue Shield’s Plan F Extra or Anthem’s Plan F Innovative plan under the birthday rule.

Which is Better, Plan F or Plan G?

Many people with Plan F have switched to Plan G because both plans are identical except Plan F covers the Medicare Part B deductible, which is currently $198 per calendar year, and Plan G does not cover the Part B deductible. Other than that, both plans are identical in coverage.

NOTE: The Medicare Part B deductible can change from year to year, but historically, it has never increased significantly.

plan-f-and-plan-g

Since the only difference between Plan F and Plan G is the $198 Medicare Part B deductible, if you can save more than $198 per year on your premiums by switching from Plan F to Plan G, then Plan G ends up being more cost effective.

If you are saving exactly $198 per year, you are breaking even, and you’re better off staying with Plan F. If you are saving $300 or more per year by switching, it will definitely cost you less money by switching from Plan F to Plan G.

NOTE: If you decide to switch from Plan F to Plan G, and you have already met the $198 Medicare Part B deductible for the current year, you would not have to pay that deductible again until the following year.

Conclusion

As of July 1st, 2020, your annual open enrollment period under the California Birthday Rule is increasing from 30 to 60 days after your birthday. Most carriers will let you apply for coverage during the 30 days prior to your birthday, but the effective date of your new policy would normally be the 1st of the month following your birthday. And if you have Plan F or Plan G with another insurance carrier and you want to switch to an “Innovative” plan under the birthday rule with Blue Shield of CA, Anthem Blue Cross,  Health Net, etc., you can now do so.

Since rates vary significantly between insurance carriers for the same identical plan and coverage, it is important to shop around, EVERY YEAR, to make sure that you aren’t paying too much.

As an independent insurance agent specializing in Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance, I work with all the major insurance carriers in California 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.

Ron Lewis
CA Lic# 0B33674
760.525.5769 (Cell)
760.718.1600 (Toll-free)
Ron@RonLewisInsurance.com
www.MedigapExpress.com

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

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!