In the movies I always have loved the line “Don’t panic until I tell you to panic.” Well folks, I am here to tell you, “Don’t panic … unless you still are procrastinating about your Medicare Part D choices.” If so, you may wish to take action today, as today, Dec. 7, is the last day for the Annual Enrollment Period for choosing benefits for 2012.
As I have stated before, the reason for this change is so that you will in all likelihood have your new ID cards in your hands prior to the Jan. 1 effective date.
It has been a hectic and busy few weeks, but quieter than some recent years. Most people are getting used to the routine of reviewing their plans each year, and barring some drastic changes, people seem generally content with their choices from the previous years.
So does this mean I can go and hibernate until next year’s Annual Enrollment Period? Hardly — this is where we move into an even higher gear to educate people on other savings they may be eligible for with the traditional Medicare Supplement or Medigap plans.
Unlike Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, which have a very short period in which to change plans, it is totally different for the more traditional Medicare Supplement marketplace.
These are the plans where you can go to any doctor, anywhere and at any time. These plans are issued as Plans A through N.
In Washington we are blessed with a very progressive Office of the Insurance Commissioner. We have some very liberal rules in place, allowing changes between companies and plans on a guaranteed basis year-round and not limited to a brief open season.
Let me explain how this can be a benefit to you.
I am seeing more companies increasing their premiums at different times of the year as opposed to a calendar-year basis. For example United Healthcare, which offers the AARP-branded products, recently has announced it will not be increasing its premiums until April. Mutual of Omaha has likewise generally increased premiums in either May or July as well as some in January.
Premera Blue Cross, which had the lowest priced Plan F in the state, recently increased its premiums over 15 percent. United Healthcare has announced increases of a far more modest average of 2.7 percent.
If you have received a premium increase notice from your Medicare Supplement company, you can move to any other company at any time without having to provide evidence of good health. In addition, any pre-existing health conditions will be covered 100 percent from Day 1 with no waiting periods.
For a list of every company offering individual Medicare Supplement plans in Washington as well as their current premiums you may print a copy from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner website at www.insurance.wa.gov/consumers/medicare/documents/MedSupPlans.pdf.
Copies also are available from the great folks at SHIBA, at 411 W. Washington St,, Sequim, or my office at 426 E. Washington St., Sequim.
The paperwork is quick and simple to switch plans and the savings can be significant. For example, according to the OIC website, there are eight companies charging over $200 per month for Plan F. They are Humana, Sentinel Life, Colonial Penn, Gerber, State Farm, United American and Kitsap Physicians Service (KPS) and topping the high-priced list is Standard Life with a whopping premium of $323 per month.
So the lowest-priced companies for the exactly same benefits currently are United Healthcare’s AARP-branded plans as well as Premera Blue Cross with premiums below $170 per month, with the AARP-branded plan even offering a spousal discount of 5 percent for married couples.
If you find you have a plan from one of the expensive eight companies, you easily can save at least $30 per person per month.
Phil Castell is an independent insurance agent in Sequim. He can be reached at 683-9284 or PhilCastell@msn.com.
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