Important things to know about Annual Enrollment

Annual Enrollment Period, (AEP) also know as Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is from October 15th through December 7th each year.

All Medicare Advantage Plans and all Prescription Drug plans will change annually.  Medicare supplements (Medigap) benefits will stay the same and automatically renew.

  • It is important to “shop” for a plan every year..  This can be done at www.Medicare.gov or by contacting a reputable insurance agent that represents numerous plans.
  • Your existing insurance plan is required to let you know by letter what changes will be made for the upcoming calendar year.
  • If you are satisfied with your existing coverage, it will automatically renew for the next year.
  • If you want to change plans, this OEP is the time to make the change.
  • Be an educated consumer.  Changing plans could save you thousands of dollars per year.
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Medicare Costs to Beneficiaries for 2018

Every year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) may change the out of pocket costs to Medicare recipients (known as beneficiaries).  In 2018, the Part A premium will continue to be $0 for most beneficiaries.  The Part B Premium will be $134 per month depending on your household income.  Those with higher incomes will pay more.  This is called IRMAA  and it based on a sliding scale. Feel free to contact me for more detailed information.

The Part A Hospital Deductible is $1340 per benefit period.

The Part B Medical Deductible remains stable at $183 per calendar year.

A Rehab/Nursing home stay will cost an additional $167.50 per day for days 21-100.

Please know that a supplemental Medicare policy (Medigap) may help pay for these increased costs.  Those who have Medicare Advantage Plans need to read their Summary of Benefits document since each plan has different premiums, deductibles and copays.

Dental Insurance Info

I recently met with Shirley, a prospective client for Medicare Supplement Insurance. She was shocked to find out that Medicare did not cover any dental costs. She said, “I don’t understand, good dental health and overall health go hand in hand”. I agreed, research shows oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. Unfortunately, that was not widely known at that time Medicare was implemented in 1965. Now, Medicare can not afford to pay out more benefits. Medicare beneficiaries need to purchase a separate policy if they want that coverage.

As it turns out, I can help. If you think insurance is hard to understand, dental Insurance is even more complicated and there are lots of choices. I begin by asking questions such as do you presently have a dentist and if so, are you willing to change? I ask that because a lot of available plans offer benefits only if you use their network providers. How often do you get your teeth cleaned? Do you routinely use services other that just preventative ones?

Consumers usually see the most savings when using a network type plan. This is because the insurance company has negotiated a significant discount. These savings get passed on to you. But, a lot of dentists do not work with any dental insurance plans or limit the ones they participate with. In that case, I recommend an “indemnity” type plan. With this type of plan, you can go to any dentist and get reimbursed for a portion of the expenses. Usually, the longer you keep your plan, the better the benefits.

I explain that either type of dental insurance can save significant money but it is not going to cover all the expenses. There are waiting periods, deductibles, co-insurance costs and usually a limited amount of coverage to consider. Occasionally, self-insuring may be the best choice.

Personally, I have a combination dental, vision and hearing plan that lets me go to whatever dentist I want. I get my prescription glasses at the warehouse-type stores where I really save. I love it because it really helps me budget my expenses and encourages me to take care of myself on a regular basis.

In case you are wondering, Shirley chose a dental plan that also included a membership to her local YMCA. The cost of the plan was lower than a regular membership fee. The dental coverage was like a free added benefit.

Don’t Miss Medicare Annual Enrollment Period

Beginning October 1, 2018, Medicare-eligible beneficiaries can start “shopping” for new Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDP).   Those who are in Medicare Supplement plans should be okay unless you have seen major rate increases and want to see if you can get a better premium price.

I highly recommend at least looking at the options available to you.  I have seen clients save up to $2000 per year by just changing to the best prescription plan for them.  The Part D plans are annual contracts and can change significantly from year to year.  In this area, there were 24 different plans available in 2017.  All of them vary in premium, deductible, formulary, tier levels and prices, and pharmacies that they prefer you use.

Yes, unfortunately, the “donut hole”, (also known as the gap in coverage) will still be in place for 2018.  It will not be until 2020 that you should expect not to pay more than 25% of the retail price for any medicine.  If you have a difficult time paying for your medicines, there is “extra help” available. I can connect you to someone who will see if you are eligible income-wise and will help you complete the necessary paperwork.

As in past years, all Medicare Advantage Plans (also known as Medicare Part C) will change also.  There are insurance companies that are “exiting the market” and a few new ones coming in.  The premiums, co-pays, and co-insurance will likely go up. Be sure to check if your doctors are “in Network”. It does not cost anything but a little time, to be certain that you are in the best plan.

If you qualify for Medicare but are still covered under a work health plan, you may very well want to look at your options.  You should be able to get better coverage at a lower cost by utilizing Medicare and dropping your work insurance.  That can be a scary thing to do, but as long as you have a competent advisor, it may well save you money!

I consult for free.  Only if I put you in a new plan, am I paid a commission by the insurance companies. You do not have to pay anything extra to get the benefit of my years of knowledge and experience. Please don’t wait. This election period ends December 7th.

How Do I Get Paid?

I recently had a  prospective client ask how much my services cost. She had checked out my website, yet that question was not clear. It is not a secret, and I want all my clients to feel comfortable using me and my knowledge. I am an independent insurance agent/broker. I do not work for just one insurance company. I do not get a paycheck or any benefits. I do, however, contract to represent many reputable insurance companies. If and when I place a policy with them, they reward me with a commission. In all honesty, these commissions can vary significantly. However, it is my practice to place my clients in the best policy for them; not the one that will pay me the most. There is also a misconception that using an agent will cost more than dealing with a company directly. That is not true. The Virginia Department of Insurance approves all the insurance rates. They are published in black and white, no matter what course you take to obtain your policy, the rates are the same. Why not use your local, experienced agent instead of trying to talk to someone on the phone, or figure it all out on the internet? I am not a high-pressure sales person. Also, not only do insurance companies pay me for explaining the policy and doing the paperwork, many continue to pay me a trail of commissions for a certain time. That means every year that you renew, I get a small payment again. This is a good deal for you and for me. The insurance company wants you to be happy with their product. They know an approachable agent is of value to them and their clients. I tell my clients that they may contact me at any time for any reason. They are not “bothering” me, I get paid to help them and it is an important part of my work. Even if you choose not to buy a policy for from me, that is okay. I trust that I will have done a good enough job for you that you might refer me to someone else who will buy. I trust God that if I do the right things for my clients, God will make sure that my needs are provided for. It has worked well.