WHEN TO COMPARE MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLANS
Learning how to compare Medicare Supplement plans can give you peace-of-mind when you turn 65 and need to decide how best to handle your healthcare insurance. Research your Medicare Supplement cost, coverage levels, and other details related to Original Medicare and Medicare Supplement plans so you don’t have to make any rushed decisions.
Familiarize yourself with your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period and your rights regarding guaranteed issue, as well. If you and your spouse are turning age 65 around the same time, you can comparison shop together.
Here are some tips on figuring out the best time to compare Medicare Supplement plans.
BEGIN TO COMPARE MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLANS EARLY
You might already know that you have to be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, which is also called Medigap. As soon as you have Parts A and B, start investigating your supplemental options, which fill in the “gaps” that Original Medicare won’t cover.
Unless you have guaranteed issue rights, you have to apply for Medigap plans within six months of the first day of the month in which you turn age 65. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). During this time, insurance companies can’t subject you to underwriting.
WHAT IS UNDERWRITING?
Underwriting is the process an insurance company uses to mitigate its risks before insuring a specific person or piece of property. The insurer can consider numerous factors when underwriting health insurance, such as pre-existing conditions, age, family medical history, and more.
Underwriting does not, however, apply to your Medigap IEP. Other than your smoking status and a few other details, the insurance company can’t take into consideration your lifestyle choices or health condition before approving a policy.
In other words, Medigap protections shield you from underwriting. As long as you compare Medicare Supplement plans and choose one within the dates of your IEP, you don’t have to worry about paying higher premiums or being denied coverage.
WHAT ARE GUARANTEED ISSUE RIGHTS?
The federal government also protects seniors from underwriting in other circumstances.
For instance, if you decide to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch to a Medigap plan within 12 months without any penalty. During that time, insurance companies that offer your desired Medicare Supplement plan in your area can’t subject you to underwriting.
You’re also protected from underwriting under guaranteed issue rights if your insurance company goes out of business. In this case, you have no choice but to seek coverage from another insurer, so the federal government won’t allow other insurers to penalize you for it.
Several other scenarios can protect your from underwriting. Still, it’s best to rely on your IEP so you don’t run the risk of paying higher premiums once you buy a policy.
MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT OPEN ENROLLMENT VERSUS IEP
When it comes to Medigap, open enrollment and the IEP are the same thing. They refer to the span of time during which you can apply for Medigap plans without underwriting.
Let’s say that you’ll turn age 65 on June 15. Your Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment period will begin on June 1 and last until December 1. If you turn 65 on the first day of the month, enrollment begins on the first day of the previous month. For instance, if you were born on December 1, open or initial enrollment begins on November 1.
You can start to compare Medicare Supplement plans immediately. Conduct thorough comparison shopping so you know which plan will meet your needs.
Where many consumers get confused is in the terminology differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Supplements.
For Original Medicare, the Open Enrollment Period starts October 15 and ends December 7 every year. During this time, people who are enrolled in Original Medicare can switch to a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan without any penalty. They can also switch from one MA plan to another or from an MA plan to Original Medicare.
However, these dates don’t have anything to do with Medicare Supplements. MA is completely different from Medigap, so you don’t have to worry about that Open Enrollment Period.
HOW TO COMPARE MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT PLANS
The month you turn 65, begin to compare Medicare Supplement plans. You can use Ensurem’s Medigap Quoter to get quotes on any plan you want from multiple insurance providers. From there, evaluate your Medicare Supplement cost, plan details, and other factors related to your health.
Medicare Supplement plans are standardized. In other words, if two insurance companies offer Plan F in your area, they both provide the same coverage levels. However, their premiums might be different because individual insurance companies can decide what to charge for each plan.
That’s why comparison shopping becomes so important. You don’t want to overpay for coverage that you could get for less money.
During your IEP, you can conduct searches to compare Medicare Supplement plans based on the specific criteria that concerns you.
YOUR MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT COST
Your Medicare Supplement cost will vary based on several factors, including premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Your premium is the amount of money you pay each month to the insurance company to keep your policy active.
Other out-of-pocket expenses can include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.
For instance, several plans cover your Part A deductible in part or in full. This means that you won’t have to pay all or any of the deductible for hospital visits. Similarly, Plan F covers your Part B deductible, too, which covers visits to physicians and related services.
Copayments refer to the money you must pay a provider when you receive service. For a visit to a general practitioner, your copay might be $10. This means that you have to pay $10 each time you visit him or her.
Meanwhile, coinsurance refers to a percentage of a total expense that you must pay out of pocket. For instance, the plan might say that you must cover 20 percent of a bill, while the insurance company picks up 80 percent. There’s an out-of-pocket limit. When you reach it, the insurance company picks up 100 percent of the bills.
Comparing all Medicare Supplement costs will help you budget your healthcare expenses effectively.
In addition to considering costs, you also have to make sure you compare plans available in your area. Some insurance companies might offer Medicare Supplement Plan A in one state, but not in others.
When you use the Ensurem Medigap Quoter, enter your zip code first. That way, you’ll get accurate quotes on premiums for the plans in which you’re interested.
When you compare Medicare Supplement plans, it’s a good idea to understand your options for healthcare coverage after age 65. Original Medicare includes gaps in coverage that might increase your out-of-pocket expenses.
Of course, you don’t want too much coverage, either. Nor do you want duplicate coverage. Conduct thorough comparison shopping to decide which Medicare Supplement plan will best meet your needs.