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Will I automatically be enrolled in Medicare when I turn age 65? 

June 22, 2021


That may be one of the most popular questions that we field every year. This is because, for many people, the Medicare journey is one of experience and anecdotes from friends. Some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65 because they already collect Social Security. Many people believe this is true in all cases; however, it is merely a myth that needs busting.

Medicare recipients who are automatically enrolled make the process appear effortless to their friends- "makes sense they turned 65 and were automatically signed up for Medicare." The people in this group took action that changed their fate. They elected their Social Security retirement benefit at age 62 or older and were automatically enrolled for Medicare Parts A and B at age 65.

What could be easier? Your Medicare card shows up in the mail, and the government sends you a letter and asks if you wish to retain it. Some people may waive Part B and keep Part A if they have other medical coverage from a group that has over 20 employees. Should someone accept the Medicare Part B coverage, it will cost approximately $148.50 for most enrollees in 2021. Part A generally has no charge if someone has been employed in the United States for approximately ten years or longer.

As mentioned above, some people can delay paying for and receiving Part B if they have employment-based health coverage from either their employment activity or the spouse.

If they are covered under a marketplace plan, an off-marketplace plan, or COBRA, they will have to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B when they turn 65.

Procrastinators beware. Signing up after the third month following the month you turn 65 subjects you to a late enrollment penalty that increases your premiums for the rest of your life. We've seen many cases where people do not sign up for Medicare on time and have extremely unfortunate health claim consequences. You will also need Parts A and B  if you wish to sign up for a Medigap or Medicare supplement plan or a Medicare Advantage plan.

In summary, signing up for Medicare Parts A and B is automatic if you claim Social Security before age 65. Otherwise, you must take action on your own by signing up three months before the month of your birth as you're turning age 65.

There's no need to take on extra stress or risk if you or a loved one are navigating the Medicare maze for the first time- please call our office. We look forward to serving you as you make your way through your Medicare journey. 

New Year, New Plan: How to Maximize Your New Health Insurance Coverage this Year

February 4, 2021


Many of us are relieved that it is finally 2021! The start of the new year may also mean that if you selected a new plan during open enrollment season, it became active on January 1, 2021.

If you have not already, the start of year is a great time to review your plan and its benefits. This can prevent you from incurring any unexpected co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, many plans offer preventative services and screenings at little or no cost to you. Utilizing these preventative services may save time and money long term by discovering any potential health irregularities and concerns early. You may even find it beneficial to schedule appointments early so that you can maximize your benefits. Although it is important to get a head-start on health, you should always refer to your doctor to determine the right care plan for you. Remember, it’s not too late to make the new year’s resolution to prioritize your health this year!

In addition, now is a great time to verify that you have received your insurance or drug card, are being billed the correct amount, and that you have adjusted your budget for your new plan. However, if you are experiencing any difficulty with a new or existing health insurance plan, as always, please reach out to our office and we will be happy to help.

 Wishing you health and wealth and a joyous new year!

Medicare Advantage Plan Coverage... How It Works While Away From Home

January 7, 2021


How will a Medicare Advantage plan work if I have an emergency away from home, while visiting family or on vacation?

That’s a very common question and concern from Medicare beneficiaries when considering a Medicare Advantage Heath plan.

In most cases, Medicare Advantage plans will cover your care if you obtain emergency services or if you are taken by ambulance, while away from home.  In many cases, the hospital may not be part of your plans provider network.  Most plans have a cap on how much you could be charged for the visit.  A typical co-pay could be as much as $150 to $200 for an emergency room co-pay.  Your Medicare Advantage plan materials will detail in and out of network provisions.

If you need continued care while you are out of town, your Medicare Advantage plan will usually request that you are transferred, once you are stable, to one of its network hospitals.

Should the physicians treating you at the out of network hospital deem that you are not able to be transferred because your conditions aren’t stable, the Medicare Advantage plan will have to pay for the care you need until it’s safe for you to be moved to an in network facility. 

The time to know how how these provisions work is before you need them. If you are unsure as to your coverage provisions, call your agent or insurance company for the details.

New Program for Renal Disease Patients

December 29, 2020

The United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, said in September that about 1 in 3 Medicare patients dealing with end-stage renal Disease will be enrolled in a program that rewards them with more convenient comfortable options like home dialysis.

The program would not only be convenient but also curtail exposure to vulnerable kidney patients to COVID-19 by eliminating visits to clinics.

Medicare will begin increasing the amount of pay to its providers for home kidney treatments to encourage the change. The move will actually save Medicare about 23.5 million over five years.
The new regulation also increases government support for people to donate their organs, including financial compensation for lost wages, child care and elder care. In September, it was estimated about 92,000 Americans are on waiting lists for kidney transplants.

 

Source AARP bulletin November 2020


Medicare Annual Election Period

November 5, 2020

Our Medicare Annual Election Period season is off to a brisk start! Of course, we are busy with the normal Part D "Prescription Drug Plan" and MAPD "Medicare Advantage Plan” questions this time of year.  We have clients that may wish to switch from Medicare Advantage Plans to Medicare Supplements and vice versa. There’s something for everybody!

 

Your Action May Be Required:

  • Minnesota Life's Journey Rx - This year’s open enrollment is especially busy because of the exit of a carrier from our market, Minnesota Life's Journey Rx.  Everyone currently on the Journey Rx plan must select a new plan with a different carrier for next year.

 

  • Prescription Blue Preferred PDP -  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has dropped Prescription Blue Preferred PDP for 2021, their mid-tier plan, and increased the premium of their previously least expensive plan by nearly $50, Prescription Blue Select PDP. Needless to say, this may cause most clients to move to another plan.

 

Many of our clients have begun doing their own Part D studies on Medicare.gov and sending us the results for consultation, which is working out quite well. Thanks to all those doing their own studies! Although you may have already been contacted by our office, if you are on Minnesota Life's Journey Rx plan or Prescription Blue PDP Preferred in 2020, and are unable to complete your Part D studies, please contact our office and we would be happy to help you!



Medicare Plan Pricing... Why the difference in price?

October 2, 2020

The majority of our clients elect Medicare supplement plans as their coverage of choice when they turn 65 or leave the workforce to provide for their own health insurance, along with Medicare parts A and B.

 One of the most important determinates is often cost of the plans. We have found that it definitely pays to shop around. According to the Medicare plan finder tool, A 65 year old male, aging into Medicare and  living in Royal Oak, MI, where our office is located, would have a plan G premium that could vary from $122/month to $362/month. The rates quoted would be for plan G each having identical coverage at the time of service. We see this variance in rates happening in all of the states where we are licensed, whether Ohio, Florida, or Michigan, it’s important to compare.

 This wide rate variance causes our office to answer the following question. Why the difference in price?

Perhaps some Insurance carriers are charging more because they must have higher cost structures or desire better profit margins? Some plans also, no doubt, will have different underwriting questions and qualification standards. Sometimes it comes down to scale. The largest carriers in a state are often able to negotiate better rates and therefore are often most competitive. Other times insurance companies may have a strategy were by they are taking on new business only at a price where they can be profitable, where others are willing to take on risks on a more aggressive basis.

 Our clients know that a secondary concern, beyond a competitive starting price, is the rate stability that an insurance company exhibits years after the sale. In other words, once the policy is issued, how well does the original pricing hold up year over year through the renewals? Will they renew with a steady level rate increase slope or exhibit large swings and price fluctuations, at times as high as 30% upon renewal.  Sometimes a more aggressive carrier, who offers deep discounts at the start, will not be able to maintain the price as time goes on, and raises it on policyholders who choose to stay with the carrier.

That underscores why it is it is so important to requote yearly.

Final word on the price disparity?

In many cases we find the old adage "you get what you pay for" is not always true regarding Medicare supplements.


And so it begins…the 2021 Medicare season

August 18, 2020 

Believe it or not, just like the NFL, there’s a huge “preseason” to the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). 

The 2021 Medicare season officially begins on October 15th, however our preparations begin in early July. 

Insurance agents are required to be re-certified annually, completing training and certification exams regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or “CMS”. 

With our CMS training out-of-the-way, we will now become re-certified with each insurance company that we plan to represent in 2021. 

Our Medicare team has attended product training sessions with the following carriers:  Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Alliance Plan, Aetna, United Healthcare/AARP, WellCare, Humana, Priority Health & Silverscript.    

All of this preparation in the “preseason” makes our team well prepared and knowledgeable to serve our clients in an exemplary fashion!

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go… Medicare Part A & B

July 23, 2020

If you are approaching age 65 or over age 65, and are still working for a company with less than 20 employees, you have healthcare decisions to make that can result in thousands of dollars in potential savings or lost opportunities.

Of course, the decision I am referring to is whether to either stay on your employer health care plan or go off onto a Medicare Supplement and a Part D plan with Parts A and B, or a Medicare Advantage plan.  Note that the decision to get Part A & B won’t be yours.

If you work for a company with less than 20 employees, in most cases, Medicare will be primary for your health care needs and your group carrier will be secondary.  For many people, the cost of a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription Rx or a Medicare Supplement with a Part D Prescription Drug Plan will probably be less than the total premium for the employer group insurance. 

 The big determinant is, who’s paying the premium? 

If you are paying the premium, perhaps through payroll deductions, it may be much less expensive for you to exit this coverage.  If your employer is paying the entire cost of the health insurance, it’s likely to be more advantageous to stay on the employer health plan.  However, you will need Medicare A & B in either case.

Prescription drug costs can be the largest single variable in determining whether it makes sense to stay on an employer health plan or opt off and enroll in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan (MAPD) or a Medicare Supplement and Part D plan.

To make the best decision, it is imperative that you assess your out-of-pocket drug costs should you stay on the employer plan and compare those costs to the out-of-pocket costs that will be experienced should you move on to a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that covers prescription drugs.

We recommend everyone does a Medicare Rx study available on Medicare.gov  https://www.medicare.gov/   If you’re unfamiliar with the process, we would be happy to assist you. 

Reasons to consider staying on an Employer Group Health Plan: 

  • The employer is paying the entire cost of the insurance with no out-of-pocket cost to you.
  • The employer plan is very strong and has very little out-of-pocket costs for both medical and prescription.
  • Your spouse is not 65 and is currently covered on your coverage, preventing you from exiting.
  • You determine through a Medicare Rx study that your out-of-pocket costs will be substantial

Potential reasons to opt off of your Employer coverage in favor of a Medicare Supplement and Part D Plan, or Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan. (MAPD) 

  • You take very few prescription drugs and will face little out-of-pocket costs on your Part D Prescription Plan or MAPD.
  • The employer plan is costly, as you have to pay much of the premium and out-of-pocket costs.
  • You are on the plan as a single and do not have a dependent spouse under the age of 65.
  • You may enjoy a greater choice of physicians with either a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan.

 


One week ago, Michigan Auto Insurance Reform took effect.

July 10, 2020

As many of you know, I wrote a robust blog post on this topic last week, including charts that we utilized in our webinars  http://www.medigapformichigan.com/michigan-auto-insurance-reform-blog   We’ve also now posted the recorded webinar that you can view on our website. You can watch the video here:  http://www.medigapformichigan.com/michigan-auto-insurance-reform-links     You may easily share it with your friends who may benefit from the information.  Auto insurance reform has been a very confusing topic, as it presents many new risks for Michigan residents to be concerned about. 

Even today I received a call from one of our clients who was reviewing their new auto insurance choices for the following year. Don’t let the decision overwhelm you.  can help give you an objective look at all your options.

 Our team is ready for a year of questions.

 #medigap   #autoreform

Don't Believe the Hype about Plan F...

March 20, 2018

We are seeing substantial misinformation in the marketplace concerning the beloved Plan F, enjoyed by many Medicare age people. Unfortunately, many have taken the news of Plan F’s eventual removal from the Medicare menu of products to mean that it will become unavailable for all, regardless of those who have it or not in the next few years.

To some degree, I think it may be just a misunderstanding from an agent standpoint, as many are claiming it is going away and scaring people off and on to Plan G prematurely.

The fact is anyone who is old enough for Plan F now will always be able to retain it under the current rules, until they pass away. Plan F is slated for obsolescence with those who are turning 65 after 2018. Those who have the plan currently can keep it. Simply, those born after that date will not be able to sign up for it. Plan F will eventually vanish off of the product menu of many insurers, as fewer and fewer will be eligible to purchase it.
As a rule, even if someone currently doesn’t have Plan F now, they will be eligible to buy it even after 2018, of they were born before 1953.

Oops, Mom Has No Insurance!

March 19, 2018

It happened again…a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Legacy customer did not pay her bill because of a caregiver oversight. In this case, we believe the caregiver had an unfortunate illness herself and forgot to pay mom’s premium.

The facts: Mom is 89 and lives in northern Oakland County and is currently without coverage. BCBSM Legacy Plan C is not willing to reinstate her plan.

Fortunately, she was able to answer medical questions and was approved for another Medicare Supplement policy from United Healthcare / AARP. Health Alliance Plan was also able to accept her to one of their Medicare Supplement Plans. Some beneficiaries are not so lucky, as they are unable to answer medical questions and obtain new coverage during the year. They would likely go bare without any coverage but original Medicare until the annual enrollment period. During which time, they could be signed up for a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Result: Happy ending! Mom will have insurance again in April and will be paying less than before on her Medicare Legacy plan.

Moving and How It Affects Your Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plans

March 19, 2018

We often receive several calls and emails from participants who are losing their Part D or Medicare Advantage coverage when moving back to Michigan from another state. We routinely assist them in securing coverage mid-year. Here are couple of examples:

Case Number 1:
Recently, a couple moved back to Michigan from the Silicon Valley in California. As a result of their move, they lost their Part D coverage and also suffered a rate increase on their Medigap/ Medicare Supplement plans. We were able to switch their Medigap plans to a more competitive policy and establish new Part D plans for them as well.

Case Number 2: 
A frantic son called us regarding his mother moving back to Michigan. She was losing her Medicare Advantage issued by the state she lived in prior to moving to Michigan. Her current Medicare Advantage plan refused to pay for her treatment now that she had moved “because it was out of their service area”.

The Medicare rules read that once an insured moves out of the service area “sometimes even within state borders”, a participant must obtain a plan within their new service area. Availability of Medicare Advantage plans not only vary state to state but also vary within different counties as well.

If you notify your plan before you move, you may switch plans the month before or the month you move and continues for 2 full months after you move. If you notify your plan after you move, your chance to switch plans begins the month you tell your plan, plus 2 more full months afterward.

We are eager to help regardless of the situation. Ideally call us before or after your move and we can help you establish a new plan. We carefully study pharmacy needs as we recommend plan changes so send us your drug list.

BCBS Legacy April 18 Increase

March 19, 2018

Our phone is ringing off the hook with customers and prospects that are disappointed over their new higher rates for the BCBS Legacy Plan C. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has elected to raise rates on both customer types, those who are over 65 with Medicare A & B and those who are under age 65 who are disabled, with Medicare Part A & B.

Presumably, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is still experiencing “unfortunate underwriting losses” on their historic Legacy product. You may recall that in 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan raising the rates from approximately $134 a month to a new premium rate bases on age, sex, and geographically location. Some customers, such as males in Oakland county over the age 80, so their rates rise from $134 per month to nearly $299 a month. Others pay somewhat less but everyone faced the large rate increase last year. The increase was supposed to assist with the nearly $200 million per year underwriting loss that BCBS was experiencing. Part of the loss was due to the state of Michigan, mandating that Blue Cross Blue Shield keep the rates very low and “vastly under market”.

In fact, the majority of customers that experienced the rate increase did not move and payed the increased premiums. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the rates are adequate to cover the losses that Blue Cross is experiencing.

Right Now


As of April 1, 2018, Blue Cross Blue Shield is raising rates about 4%. Some of these seniors are going to be charged over $300 a month. The new rate will be based on age, sex and zip code. Rates will also be rising even more for disabled individuals with Medicare.

What to do?

Strategy 1:

Consider moving to another Medigap / Medicare Supplement plan in April. Most people over age 65 should apply to other Medicare Supplement providers to obtain lower rates. Medigap or Medicare Supplement policies do not follow the same rules as Medicare Advantage plans and maybe applied for any month of the year. Following this logic, participants may change insurance companies any month provided they pass underwriting for the new insurance company.

Many are surprised we can find them a company who will approve them at a better rate midyear. There is no risk to apply to see if someone can get approved or get a firm price. We commonly give people an idea of their perspective price just with a few questions over the phone. Should this be successful, some will save hundreds of dollars per month. Since health conditions are a key factor when considering moving to other Medigap /Medicare Supplement plans, participants should not procrastinate. Health conditions could change for the worse, therefore prohibiting the move to another carrier.

Strategy 2:

Some will not be able to move Medigap or Medicare Supplement plans at this time due to a temporary health challenge, however, they may reapply when they become healthier. Should their health not be likely to improve, they can pay the increased premiums on their Legacy plan until the end of the 2018 plan year and consider moving to a Medicare Advantage plan “MA” during the annual enrollment period.

Why these individuals should consider MA?

Competitive premiums
No medical questions to apply
No extra charge for advanced age as with Medigap plans
No extra charge for those with disabilities that are under age 65.

Things to verify before potential change

Those that elect Medicare Advantage plans will need to pay attention to how their pharmacy needs will be covered under these plans. Also, many of these plans have provider networks that must be scrutinized as well. While many doctors accept Medicare Advantage plans, potential insureds should verify their doctors are in network.

Call us to discuss your options or options for your parents. We will assist you to determine if a new Medigap / Medicare Supplement plan is a possibility. We can also help with a pharmacy study to make sure that medications will be covered under a Medicare Advantage plan or a Part D plan.

Strategy 3: Do nothing and pay the rate increase

This has been the most popular decision regarding Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Legacy rate increase. The vast majority of participants on the Medicare BCBSM Legacy plan have not moved and are just paying the rate increase. The Legacy plan is a very good insurance plan and it works well for participants. Anyone who has experienced claims finds it to be a very good coverage. Unfortunately, the rates may continue to increase, especially as underwriting losses increase.
Should this happen, eventually, some will find it makes sense to consider other options as rates could increase year after year.

What will be your strategy??? Call us should you wish to explore your alternatives.

Moving Mom or Dad Closer to Home

February 8, 2017

We received a call yesterday from a daughter of a Senior citizen who is being moved to Michigan so that the family can better deliver care to her.

This is the second case we’ve had recently whereby seniors are moving into Michigan to be cared for by their children.

When this happens, the likely result is a loss of healthcare and/or prescription drug coverage by the senior. Under Medicare Part D ‘”Drug” and Part C “Medicare Advantage”, their plans likely terminate because a change in zip code. In other words, if the senior moves out of the service area they will lose their coverage and will need to select a new Medicare Advantage Plan C or Part D Prescription Drug Plan in their geographic area.

In the cases we’ve dealt with recently, seniors were moving from Ohio to Michigan, to be with their children. The daughter that called our office yesterday is moving her mother into an assisted living facility near her home, and will need to establish a new Medicare Advantage Plan within 30 days of mom’s move to Michigan.

Hoover and Associates in mind if you need help with such a move, or know someone who is moving their loved one to Michigan. We are happy to help you determine the best course of action before the move. The potential change of Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug coverage is just one more thing to consider and an aspect of the move that is important not to be overlooked.

BCBS Legacy Effect on Disabled

August 26, 2016

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Legacy rate increase is continuing to generate a substantial amount of traffic at our office. Disabled people and their caregivers are particularly interested in alternatives as they are alarmed by the substantial rate increase.
Recently, a woman who “Googled” us stopped in and spoke about her disabled husband. They are reeling from the potential rate increase and will be meeting with us to discuss alternative strategies.

A disabled man, who we helped sign up on Legacy, is dismayed by the price yet concerned other plans may not allow the same access to physicians he’s enjoyed. For a brief time, while disabled and before he met us, he was on a Medicaid plan. During his brief stay on the plan, he realized he could not see any of the doctors he has enjoyed dealing with in the past. We helped him exit off during open enrollment onto Legacy and a PDP.