As I have mentioned in previous articles, we are lucky to have such a consumer-oriented insurance commissioner in Washington. This fact has been reinforced to me over the past 60 days.
In Washington, a person who is age 65 or older and has a traditional Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan can at any time of the year, move from one insurance company to another, with hardly any restrictions. Allow me to explain.
The biggest misconception I hear is that changes only can be made during the open season at the end of the year. Wrong. That open season is solely for Medicare Part D as well as Medicare Advantage Plans.
Medigap plans have a 12-month open season in Washington.
This can be of importance to you as many insurance companies choose to increase their premiums at different times of the year and not just in January.
For example, two large insurers have increased their premiums as of July 1. They are Kitsap Physicians Services (KPS) as well as Mutual of Omaha. The Mutual increase was more than 15 percent and the KPS was quite high also.
What does this mean for you?
If you ever wonder if you are paying too much for your Medigap insurance coverage, you can obtain a list of all insurers and the premiums they charge from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner website at www.insurance.wa.gov.
The list will show the plans each company offers as well as the premiums they charge. It is a very easy to read list, as in Washington the premiums are community rated. That means that there is one premium for the whole state regardless of if you are male or female, 65 or 95, smoker or nonsmoker.
OK, I will cut to the chase and give you the bottom line on who has the lowest premiums. It depends.
I hate it when I have to say that as I like definitive answers, but the situation depends upon which plan you currently have, when you purchased the plan and also if you are married or not.
United Health Care, which offers the AARP branded Medigap plans, is the only company to offer a spousal discount for married couples or even couples who are living together. I see that situation quite frequently usually for either pension or Social Security reasons.
Premera Blue Cross offers a low-priced plan, but it is very restrictive as far as when your existing plan took effect, as to whether you would be eligible to receive the lowest rate, without undergoing a rigorous health screening questionnaire.
We had one couple in the office last week whose premium was going to increase to $492 per month and we were able to give them identical coverage for under $320 per month. That was a monthly savings of over $170 or over $2,000 for the year.
You can bet they left our office with huge smiles on their faces.
If you want to see if you can save some money, you may do it yourself at the website mentioned earlier or call the local office of Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) at 452-3221, as well as your local insurance agent.
In closing I would like to share a couple of insights into the fast approaching Medicare open season. Yes, I know it is only the beginning of July, but this year the open season starts a month earlier on Oct. 15 and will run through Dec. 7.
Aetna has had the CMS (Medicare) sanctions lifted and it once again may start soliciting clients for its Part D plans. In addition Aetna announced that it had purchased the Medigap business from Genworth Financial. I occasionally see their plans, but they have very few clients in the state.
Silverscript, a Part D company, recently has purchased Community CCRx plans and so we can expect a far greater presence in the marketplace. Silverscript is partnered with CVS, a large drug store chain that does not have a location on the peninsula.
Finally, I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. The Dungeness crabs are plentiful and it looks like summer finally has arrived with decent weather for a day or two.
Phil Castell can be reached at 683-9284 or PhilCastell@msn.com.
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