Despite what you may get in the mail, read everything you get with a grain of salt and lots of caution.
It’s that time of the year for seniors about to be eligible for Medicare. Your mailbox is going to be jam packed with ads about Medicare supplements and Medicare Part D drug coverage. Not that the information isn’t useful, but there is so much of it and it’s terribly confusing to boot. This is where you need to reach for the phone and call an expert Medicare insurance agent in your area and talk turkey about all the stuff you’ve been getting.
One thing you should definitely know right up front is that open enrollment for Medicare Part D started November 15th and runs right through to December 31st every year. You may or may not know this however, that Medicare supplements do not have an open enrollment period. The only open enrollment you make take advantage of is the one that relates to Medicare Part D drug coverage, period. The reason this is so important to know and remember is because a large portion of the senior population think open enrollment is for Medicare supplement plans. This is not the case.
This isn’t to say that you can’t attempt to make a change to your Medicare supplement at any time, but having said that, there are a lot of companies that will ask medical questions. The answers you give to those questions may either allow you to change plans or not, as the case may be.
Here is another area of confusion now, and likely in the foreseeable future, Medicare supplements are also called Medigap policies and they are identical by plan. So what that really means is that if you want to buy plan J from AARP, you will get precisely the same benefits with a plan J offered by American Progressive. In other words, it doesn’t matter where you buy the plan, it is the same plan.
The only thing that does tend to change is the premiums the various companies charge. Sure, you could shop for the cheapest deal, but you will want to know you are dealing with a company with a good reputation for honoring their claims. Just because the ads you get in your mailbox say company X is the biggest and best and is really aggressive about chasing your business, does not mean they “are” the best. So be wary.
The interesting thing here is that when you look in your stuffed mailbox, the ads you see are strictly regulated by the Center for Medicare Services. That may be all well and good, but that still does not help you sort out some very confusing and misleading ads. Remember this as well, that just because your banker or best friend has a plan that works for them, does not mean it is suited to your particular circumstances. Ask questions and don’t stop until you get answers that make sense, and get a plan based on your needs, health and budget.