A Plan F is a Plan F is a Plan F. I say this often to my potential clients. It is true, but not the whole truth. Because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have standardized all Medicare Supplement Plans (also known as Medigap Plans), it is true that the level of benefits is the same. All Plan F plans must cover Medicare deductibles and co-insurance, no matter which company you purchase from.
However, a Plan F from one company to another company can and does vary significantly. I am an independent insurance agent who specializes in this. The following are ways that they can vary and you need to consider when choosing a Medicare Supplement Plan:
- Rates can vary significantly. In Virginia, as of this writing,( September 17, 2012) a Plan F rate for a 65-year-old female can range from a low of $92.13 per month to over $300 per month. (We are talking identical coverage!) These rates vary due to many factors such as the area in which you live. For example, a person who lives in one zip code can pay $20/per month less than their neighbor who lives down the road but in a slightly different zip code. A smoker may pay more with some companies. Males may have a higher rate with some companies. Some plans have rates which are guaranteed to increase every year as you get older. Some plans level off their rates after age 75. (Unfortunately, all of them can – and do- raise their rates on an across the board basis.)
- There are extra “Perks” and extra Costs. For example, you must be a member of AARP to buy their Plan F from United Health Care. Currently, this is an additional cost of $16 per year. But on the Perk side, the AARP/UHC plan includes a Silver Sneakers benefit. That alone could save you over $50 per month if you are already paying for a fitness center membership. Mutual of Omaha has a 7% couples’ discount. And companies are adding more perks (benefits that are not required by law) every day trying to get your business.
- Ratings and Customer Service. Have you ever had a question and had to talk to someone in India, or be put on hold for what seems like a lifetime? This is a consideration when purchasing a plan you will probably keep for many years. Though in my experience, this is usually not a big consideration because these plans (as long as they are from a reputable company) work like a dream. It is rare to be dissatisfied with a Plan F as long as you can afford to pay the premiums.
So the bottom line is – Shop plans with a knowledgeable agent who can enroll you into best plan for you.