Switching your Medigap policy before Dec. 7? Don’t be fooled by the hype

My mailbox is being flooded with ads about switching my Medigap policy to a Medicare Advantage plan, a prescription drug plan – Part D, or a different Medigap company. TV ads also abound.

2016 “Medicare  You” handbook 10050LSome offer plans with premiums “from $0 a month” and use terms such as “urgent” and “don’t delay.”

The deadline for switching to Medicare Advantage or a prescription drug plan – Part D is Dec. 7.

What is Medicare Advantage and what’s all the hype about?

Medicare Advantage a way to combine Original Medicare and supplemental or Medigap policies. The companies receive a federal payment per person per month to manage Medicare benefits for recipients. Instead of receiving statements from Medicare and your Medigap company, you’ll just get one statement.

I’m not a fan of Medicare Advantage plans. Some members of Congress think giving private companies extra money to manage Medicare recipients’ benefits is too expensive. As a result, Medicare Advantage plans could be changed significantly or eliminated.

Other disadvantages:

  • Insurance companies may use high-pressure sales to get seniors to switch to Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Comparing insurance policies is difficult. Unless seniors are careful, they could end up paying more money for fewer services.
  • Seniors may have to change doctors and hospitals.
  • Some Medicare Advantage plans don’t offer prescription drug benefits.
  • Seniors may have to wait for the next enrollment period to transfer out of the plan if they don’t like it.

What the hype is about is trying to get you to switch out of the Medigap policy you have into what the company is offering. They don’t have the best interests of the consumer in mind, just making more money.

And, be wary of getting a policy with a $0 premium. That means you’ll be getting fewer services and paying much higher deductibles. Watch the relationship between premiums and deductibles. The lower the premium, the higher the deductible.

If you have Original Medicare and a Medigap policy, insurance that covers what Medicare doesn’t pay for, you can switch to a different Medigap policy at any time. But, you can’t switch from it to a Medicare Advantage plan or prescription drug plan – Part D. That enrollment period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

The Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s Office suggests before you make your decision, consider the following tips:

  • Plan costs and coverage can change every year, so carefully review all letters and notices from your current plan.
  • Make a list of all current prescription drugs you take, the doses, and how often. Then, use the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov to compare Part D plans.
  • Review the 2016 “Medicare You” handbook. Copies are sent to Medicare recipients in mid-October.
  • If you have questions, call SHIBA at 800-562-6900 before you sign up. SHIBA stands for Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors.

To schedule an appointment with a SHIBA volunteer, do one of the following:

  • Call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-562-6900 and ask to speak with a SHIBA volunteer in your local area.

For more information for boomer consumers, see my blog The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.