What to do with a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan?

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By MIKE ZIM­MER

A Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan is a type of health in­sur­ance plan of­fered by Pri­vate In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies to help cover the “gaps” of Orig­i­nal Medi­care and are typ­i­cally re­ferred to as Medi­gap Plans. Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plans help pay for the costs that Medi­care Part A and Medi­care Part B would nor­mally pass on to you like de­ductibles, coin­sur­ance and co­pay­ments.

If you have a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan, Medi­care will pay for its share of your med­i­cal ex­penses first. Then your pol­icy will pay its share. De­pend­ing on which Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Pol­icy you choose, this could be the re­main­der of your bill.

There are 10 dif­fer­ent Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plans to choose from. Ev­ery Plan is re­quired to fol­low the guide­lines cre­ated by Medi­care when it stan­dard­ized the plans in 1990. Each stan­dard­ized plan has their own set of ben­e­fits and are iden­ti­fied by a let­ter (Plan A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, and N). Each one of these let­tered Plans pro­vide the same set of ben­e­fits from com­pany to com­pany. (As an ex­am­ple, a Plan G is a Plan G. One Com­pany can­not give you one more ben­e­fit in a Plan G than an­other com­pany). This means that the monthly pre­mium is the main dif­fer­ence be­tween sup­ple­ments with the same let­ter. Medi­care Sup­ple­ment

Open En­roll­ment Per Medi­care’s Guide to Health In­sur­ance, the best time to pur­chase a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment pol­icy is dur­ing your open-en­roll­ment win­dow. This win­dow be­gins the month that you are first en­rolled in Part B and lasts for 6 months.

Dur­ing open-en­roll­ment, the Medi­care Sup­ple­ment com­pany can­not ask you any med­i­cal ques­tions. They can­not turn you down for any health con­di­tions. They can­not refuse you a pol­icy or charge you any ad­di­tional amount due to health con­di­tions, med­i­ca­tions or pre-ex­ist­ing ill­nesses.

Af­ter this win­dow closes, how­ever, fu­ture in­sur­ance com­pa­nies that you might ap­ply with can ac­cept or de­cline you based on health. That is why open-en­roll­ment is the best time to en­roll.

Please note: The An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod in the Fall is NOT a time when you can change Medi­care Sup­ple­ment plans with no health ques­tions. Many peo­ple mis­tak­enly be­lieve this. The An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod in the Fall per­tains to your Part D Pre­scrip­tion plan or Medi­care Ad­van­tage Plan, not your Medi­care Sup­ple­ment plan. Medi­care Sup­ple­ment

Guar­an­teed Is­sue Some peo­ple de­lay en­roll­ment into a sup­ple­ment be­cause they have group health cov­er­age through an em­ployer. Later when you re­tire or lose that cov­er­age, you have the right to pur­chase six of the ten plans within the 63 days fol­low­ing the loss of your group cov­er­age (Co­bra cov­er­age is not in­cluded). The guar­an­teed is­sue win­dow works just like ope­nen­roll­ment, in that the in­sur­ance com­pany can­not deny your ap­pli­ca­tion for any health rea­sons.

There are some other cir­cum­stances which cre­ate a guar­an­teed is­sue win­dow as well, such as los­ing Medi­care Ad­van­tage cov­er­age when mov­ing out of state. You will want to keep any no­tices from your prior car­rier that show proof of your cred­itable cov­er­age for guar­an­teed is­sue and so that you do not in­cur the Part D late en­roll­ment penalty. Medi­care Sup­ple­ment

– Un­der­writ­ten If your win­dow has al­ready passed for open-en­roll­ment or guar­an­teed is­sue, you can still ap­ply for a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan, but you will be re­quired to an­swer health ques­tions on your ap­pli­ca­tion. Based upon your an­swers to the health ques­tions, the in­sur­ance com­pany can ac­cept or de­cline you.

Once again, The An­nual Elec­tion Pe­riod in the Fall is NOT a time when you can change your Sup­ple­ment with­out un­der writ­ing. Chang­ing Medi­care Sup­ple­ment car­ri­ers will re­quire un­der­writ­ing in most cases. Choos­ing the right Medi­care

Sup­ple­ment Plans Choos­ing your Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan is a per­sonal de­ci­sion but it also a very im­por­tant one. Not only do you need to con­sider the ben­e­fits you need to­day but you also need to con­sider the ben­e­fits you may need in the fu­ture. Once you are out of your ope­nen­roll­ment win­dow or guar­an­tee is­sue pe­riod, you will need to be med­i­cally un­der­writ­ten to qual­ify for a plan if you de­cide later that you need ad­di­tional ben­e­fits.

Some ad­di­tional items to con­sider when choos­ing a Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plan

are: • Rates – Is the pre­mium the com­pany of­fer­ing you com­pet­i­tive?

• Sta­bil­ity of the com­pany – How long has the Com­pany been of­fer­ing Medi­care Sup­ple­ment Plans?

• His­tory of Pre­mium In­creases – Al­though most poli­cies will have an­nual rate in­creases to keep up with med­i­cal in­fla­tion, are the rate in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly higher than their com­peti­tors?

• The ser­vice of your agent – Will your agent re­turn your call if you have ques­tions or con­cerns?

Mike Zim­mer is pres­i­dent of Bay State In­sur­ance Agency Ltd in Centreville. He is avail­able to an­swer ques­tions or speak to your groups re­gard­ing Medi­care, Medi­care Ad­van­tage Plans, Medi­care Sup­ple­ments, and Medi­care Part D (Pre­scrip­tion Plans). He may be reached at 410-758-1680.

Come visit us at the Se­nior Expo at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege on March 22, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Booth #12

MIKE ZIM­MER

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