By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Insurance Weekly News Asking a few simple questions can help ensure obtaining the right Medicare insurance coverage and potentially saving significant money.
"Individuals have choices when it comes to Medicare coverage and that's a good thing but weeding through the choices to find the best plan can be daunting," explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance (AAMSI), a national consumer advocacy organization. "Asking the right questions and working with a knowledgeable professional can result in a significant difference in available options and health care costs."
The Association director shared questions offered by leading Medigap agents listed on the organization's Find A Local Medicare Supplement Agent directory. Individuals seeking local Medicare insurance agents can access the free online directory, the nation's leading independent consumer resource.
Differences Between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement
After enrolling in Medicare, individuals must decide between a Medicare Advantage plan and maintaining original Medicare with a Medicare Supplement plan for added benefits. "Each of these Medicare plan options come with different benefits, costs, and rules," explains Janice Shick of Seminole, FL. "It is important to weigh both options carefully before choosing."
"Does the agent offer both Medicare Advantage as well as Medicare Supplement?" shares Erin Fisher of New York, NY. "Ask how many Medicare Supplement and Medicare Plan D plans the agent represents." If the agent only sells one or two of each of these, it may not be the lowest premium available.
Rates for Medicare Supplement insurance can be changed from year to year. "What is the past three-year rate increase history for the particular insurance company being recommended?" suggests Mike Alexander of Houston, TX. Some carriers offer low initial rates, but have larger rate increases each year. A knowledgeable agent should readily provide a 3-to-5 year rate increase history, also available from the insurance carrier or the state insurance department.
Medicare Advantage plans are generally HMOs that require the individual to use doctors and hospitals within the specific carrier's network and within a particular service area. "Which doctors and hospitals can be used?" is an especially important question cites Justin Lubenow of Cranford, NJ. "The top 20 hospitals in the country all accept Medicare Supplement and many people want to maintain their doctors who may not be part of the pre-designated network."
While Medicare Supplement plans are standardized, each insurance company sets their own rates and available discounts. "When a 65-year old single man seeks coverage I'll recommend one company," notes Tom Kloepfer of Buffalo Grove, IL. "Another company might be better for a married man because of an available household discount, especially if the spouse is already on Medicare or soon to become eligible."
Individuals still working after age 65 may have employer provided health coverage. "If so, obtain the premiums for employer coverage at age 65 and compare costs and coverage with Medicare Supplement plans, plus Medicare Parts B and D," recommends Steven Kirsch of Farmington Hills, MI. "The size of the employer is essential, especially if the company is small. Making a mistake can be extremely costly."
Consumers seeking information and Medicare Supplement cost comparisons from local Medicare insurance professions can access the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance's online directory. Access to the Zip-Code directory is free and no information is required to view the listing of agents.
Jesse Slome, AAMSI's director, is a leading national advocate for consumer awareness and financial and insurance product education. Slome also serves as director for the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance and the National Advisory Center for Short-Term Care Insurance Information.
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