When approaching age 65, many individuals begin to receive a great deal of literature and information regarding Medicare Supplement insurance. Prior to making a selection on which Medigap policy is best for your needs, it is important to become familiar with what each of the plans offers, as well as to research policy quotes.
There are several ways to obtain quotes on Medicare Supplement insurance policies. One way to do so is to work directly with an insurance company or agent who specializes in this type of coverage. In doing so, you can obtain premium information, as well as ask additional questions regarding coverage and benefits. You can work with licensed Medicare Supplement agents either in person or over the phone.
Many insurance brokers who focus on the Medigap area have the ability to obtain quotes from several different insurers, allowing you to compare policy premiums, as well as the ratings and other important information about the issuing insurance companies. By being affiliated with numerous insurance companies, these brokers can provide you with a more unbiased opinion of which plan may best fit your specific needs.
You may also be able to obtain Medicare Supplement quotes online. The vast reach of the Internet today has allowed Medigap insurers to place quote forms directly on their websites. By answering just a few basic questions, you can receive information on the various policy offerings quickly and easily. This can also help you to more easily compare which companies offer the lowest – and the highest – rates. There is typically no obligation to purchase a policy on which you have obtained a quote. To find a list of insurers offering medicare supplemental quotes in your state enter your zip and browse a list of qualified providers.
How Medicare Supplement Quotes are Determined
When determining the premium on a Medicare Supplement insurance policy, insurers have three primary ways in which they price their plans. These include:
Attained Age Rating – Using attained age, insurers base the policy quote on the age that you have attained. This means that all policy holders of the same age will pay the same premium amount for their coverage. Using this method, younger policy holders will typically pay a lower rate than those who are older.
Issue Age Rating – When using issue age for determining rates, the premium amount will be based upon the age that the policy holder is when he or she is actually issued a policy. While the premiums on issue age rated plans will not generally go up as the policy holder ages, they may increase based upon inflation and other factors.
Community Rating – Policies that are community rated – also referred to as “no age rated” plans – have the same rates for all policy holders. Similar to with issue age rated policies, these plans will not increase in price due to a policy holders age, however, other market and economic factors may cause premiums to rise. One such factor is the amount of claims that are being paid out for policy holders of a particular Medicare Supplement plan.
Comparing Medigap Insurers
When considering the purchase of a Medicare Supplement insurance policy, it is important to compare the actual policies – and likewise, the premium quotes – from more than one insurance company. Therefore, in order to determine which insurers offer a particular Medigap plan, you can contact your state’s insurance department. This organization can provide you with a great deal of information on which Medicare Supplement insurance policies are offered in your state, as well as with a comparison shopping guide for such policies.
Information comparing the different Medigap plan benefits can also be found on Medicare’s website at www.medicare.gov. Here, you can learn what each of the Medigap plans cover, as well as how the premium rates for each plan is determined.
When contacting Medicare Supplement insurers regarding benefits and quotes, there are some specific questions you should inquire about, as the answers could have a bearing on the likelihood of being you accepted for coverage (if you are applying outside of your open enrollment period), as well as the premium you will be charged. These questions should include determining if the insurance company:
Is licensed to sell Medicare Supplement insurance in your state;
Uses medical underwriting for determining acceptance in their policies as well as for determining the policy quote;
Imposes a waiting period for any pre-existing health conditions;
Prices Medigap policies appropriately based on either an attained age rating, an issue age rating, or a community rating;
Has raised its premium rates in the past three years;
Offers any type of premium discount or additional benefits;
Charges an additional amount of premium in order to automatically process your claims.
Because Medicare Supplement insurance benefits are identical on all policies of the same letter, it may at first seem logical to choose the plan from the insurer with the lowest premium rate. However, it is important to ensure that the insurance company you choose for your coverage also has high ratings and will be there in the future should you need to file a claim.
Insurance companies are assigned ratings by one or more of the insurance company rating entities. These agencies include A.M. Best, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch. Ratings are typically indicated by letters, with an “A” rating or better being indicative of financial strength and positive claims paying ability. With this in mind, the policy with the cheapest premium rate may not always be the best overall.
Who Qualifies for Medicare Supplement Insurance
In order to qualify for a Medigap insurance plan, you must be age 65 and both eligible and enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. This is known as Original Medicare. If you participate in Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage, you do not need a Medicare Supplement insurance policy. In certain instances, those who are under age 65 and have Original Medicare because of a qualifying disability or health condition may also be eligible for Medigap.
When Can You Apply for Medicare Supplement Insurance?
The best time to apply for a Medicare Supplement insurance policy is during your six-month “open enrollment” period. This period begins on the month that you turn age 65 and are also enrolled in Medicare Part B.
It is important to apply for Medigap during your open enrollment time period, because once this period is over, you will not be given another. Should you wait to apply for Medigap insurance after your open enrollment period has expired, there is no guarantee that an insurer will sell you a policy. This is especially the case if you have certain adverse health conditions.
If you do qualify for coverage that is applied for after your open enrollment period, it is also possible that you may pay a higher amount of premium than you would if you had applied during open enrollment.
What if You Have Other Health Insurance Coverage?
If you are currently covered under an employer sponsored group health plan, you may not need a Medicare Supplement policy at this time. This is because many group plans offer similar coverage to that provided by Medicare Supplement. In this case, it would be unnecessary to pay the additional premium for a Medicare Supplement plan.
However, when your group health insurance coverage ends, you will be allowed to enroll in Medicare Part B without incurring a late enrollment penalty and increasing your policy’s premium rate. This also means that your open enrollment period for Medigap coverage will begin at that time as well.
Considerations When Shopping for a Medicare Supplement Insurance Quotes
When shopping for a Medicare Supplement insurance plan, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. First, not all insurance companies that provide Medicare Supplement insurance will offer all of the Medigap plans. Insurers have the option of offering only some of the Medigap plans. Therefore, if a particular policy is the best option for you, be sure to inquire as to whether or not a particular insurance company offers this specific plan.
In addition, the prices that are quoted for Medigap policies may vary a great deal from one insurance company to another – even though the benefits offered on all policies of the same letter are identical. With this in mind, it is wise to get quotes from at least three different insurance companies that offer the particular Medicare Supplement plan that you are purchasing.
It is also important to be aware of any possible illegal practices performed by unscrupulous Medigap agents. For example, agents are not allowed to pressure you into purchasing a Medigap plan or to sell you a policy if you are already covered by Medicaid (except in limited situations).
Agents are also not allowed to claim that any Medigap plan is part of the actual Medicare program. This is because Medicare Supplement policies are private health insurance plans and are therefore not part of any type of official government sponsored program. This also means that Medigap agents are not affiliated with the Medicare program, but rather are affiliated with the insurance company that is offering the Medigap insurance plan.
If you feel that an agent is performing in an illegal manner, you should contact your state’s insurance department or the office of the Inspector General. While the large majority of agents are honest and ethical, it is always a good idea to have a good understanding of what is – and is not – legal in the practice of offering and quoting Medicare Supplement insurance policies.
How to Apply for Medicare Supplement Quotes
Once you have done your research, decided on the best Medigap plan for you, obtained quotes, and are comfortable with the issuing insurer, you can move forward with the application process. In doing so, be sure that the insurance company that you are applying with has provided you with a clearly worded summary of the plan that you are purchasing.
It is important to note that Medicare Supplement insurance policies only cover one person. Therefore, if you are married and your spouse is also age 65 and enrolled in Original Medicare, he or she will need to fill out a separate application for coverage.
In filling out the application, it is important to ensure that all questions are answered completely in order to avoid a hold-up in underwriting. If you are completing your application during your open enrollment period, the insurance company may not deny you Medigap insurance coverage based on any adverse health related conditions.
They also cannot charge you a higher amount of premium. You can request that your Medicare Supplement insurance coverage becomes effective at a time that is best for you, although the coverage for most plans begin on the first day of the month following your application.
What Happens Next?
Once your Medigap policy application has been accepted by the insurer and a plan is issued to you, the issuing insurance company is required to offer a “free look” provision to the policy holder. This means that you must be given a minimum of 30 days to review your policy – and, should you decide within the free look period that you do not want to keep the plan, you can send it back to the insurer and request a full refund of all premiums paid.
In addition, all Medigap insurance policies are considered to be “guaranteed renewable.” This means that even if you acquire an adverse health condition while your coverage is in force, your Medicare Supplement insurance company may not cancel your policy as long as you continue paying your premium.
By Susan Wright
About the author
Downtown Bellevue, just off I-405