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Be Wise: Shop Medicare Plans Regularly

Blood pressure medication in front of a monitor

Learning About Medicare Supplement Plans

“Knowledge Is Knowing What To Do, Wisdom Is Knowing When To Do It.”

– Author Unknown

Living on a fixed income can be a formidable challenge for today’s seniors. Many wisely comparison shop so that they are getting a product or service for the best price.  What many don’t realize is that in most cases Medicare Insurance should be shopped periodically to keep costs down. Many people are simply not familiar enough with the insurance industry and do not understand the manner in which it functions.  The vast majority of insurance policies as a rule will experience premium increases regularly.  Many things influence these increases and many of the variables that drive increases in premium rate are specific to the type of insurance.

It is wise to occasionally re-evaluate such policies as:

  • Medicare Supplement Plans
  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Medicare Part D Prescription Plans

Medicare Supplement Plans

What many do not realize is that a Medicare Supplement plan is very different from an Advantage Plan or a Part D Prescription Plan.  These plans can be changed at any time during the year if you qualify for the new plan.

A Supplement Plan is standardized by the government, so all carriers must offer identical coverage for Plan F, Plan G or Plan N and all other Medicare Supplement Plans.  Therefore, the only difference you will find is the premium price.  This makes shopping it regularly to keep your premium cost down so important!

Now, in order to change plans in most cases you must answer a series of medical questions in order to qualify.  If you have certain medical condition(s) or take particular medications you could be declined for a plan.  As a standard the plans who offer the lowest rates have more stringent standards to qualify and other with very high rates accept many high risk individuals.

Example: AARP is the perfect example of a “high risk” carrier in the Medicare Insurance Industry.  AARP has among the highest premium prices and more frequent premium increases than most other carriers for the identical plans.  This is because they accept nearly all medical conditions, meaning they pay out much more money in medical claims and other costs. So, AARP’s Medicare products are a good option for some who would be declined by other carriers, but if you are healthy and could pay half for the same plan, why pay more?!

For those who medically qualify it is smart to shop your Medicare Supplement Plan regularly.  This is service that we provide all of our customers.  Each year we do a quick quote to find the best rates for each customer in their area with all of the major carriers.

Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage Plans have enrollment restrictions that Medicare Supplement Plans do not which makes it very important that you understand them.  In most cases Medicare Advantage Plans can only be changes during the Annual Enrollment Period.

The annual enrollment period is from October 15th to December 7th of each year.

During this time you may change your plan if you like.  It is very important that you have your Medicare Advantage Plan evaluated every year.  These plans might take dramatic premium increases, be discontinued in your zip code or there may be a new or more affordable option available in the coming year.  If you do nothing during open enrollment then your plan will automatically renew.  At the beginning of the year you will then be locked-in for a year and if the plan has made a change you are unhappy with you have missed your opportunity to change it.

 Also, keep in mind there are situations that might come-up during the year that would force you to find a new Medicare Advantage Plan, this would be a “special enrollment” situation.   Medicare Advantage Plan special enrollment circumstances may include:

  • The insurance carrier terminates plans in your zip code
  • It might not be available where you are moving
  • The insurance carrier may lose their contract with Medicare

If any of these situations occur you would have to find a new Medicare Advantage plan.  Because these plans are networked and more restrictive it is crucial to make sure you choose the right one.  Once you have enrolled in a plan, just as with the normal annual enrollment you are locked in to it until the next open enrollment period.  So, whether you are re-evaluating your Medicare Advantage Plan during open enrollment or find yourself in a special enrollment situation during the year it is important to make your choice carefully!

 Medicare Part D Prescription Plans

Medicare Part D Prescription Plans are a lot like the Medicare Advantage Plans in that they are subject to Medicare’s open enrollment period.  So, during this time you are given the opportunity to transition to a new plan for the coming year or remain with the one you have.  If you do nothing your current plan, like the Medicare Advantage Plan, will automatically renew.

Many seniors find out too late that Part D Prescription Plan premiums can go up substantially from one year to the next.  Even more worrisome, many don’t realize that the medications covered and to what degree they are covered can also change each year.  Far too often one of our customers will call us and is highly upset that they are now paying much more for their Part D plan and the cost for their medications has gone up as well!  It is so very important to shop these plans each year during open enrollment to guard against this happening. After all, once open enrollment ends there is very little or no opportunity available to change that plan.

Shopping your Medicare Plans is a crucial part of keeping your costs down, especially when you are on a fixed income as many seniors are.  This is why we stress to our customers that we should re-evaluate their plans regularly.  Our commitment to this principle is strong and we have a designated renewal specialist who calls each customer with rate increases and renewal rates each year.  This gives us the opportunity to offer our customers new plan options if their plan is becoming un-affordable should they qualify.  Also, we have a dedicated agent to assist customers in shopping their Part D Prescription Plans each year.

If you need assistance re-evaluating your Medicare Plan(s) this year or are new to Medicare please call us today!  We would love to shop ALL of the available plans for you to be sure you are getting the best value for your hard-earned money! We pride ourselves on excellent customer service year round and are just a phone call way if there is anything that we can do to assist you!

E. Steele

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