Note: We have revised and updated this article from a previous publication.
Unfortunately, Medicare supplement (Medsupp) rates continue to increase. The good news is that if your health is stable, you may be able to qualify for a lower cost plan.
During the past few years most all companies have had rate increases to some extent or another. What can be done about this? The solution, of course, is to have us shop on your behalf for lower premium (if available) plans. Remember, you can change your Medsupp plan any month of the year, providing that you medically qualify. More about medical qualification shortly.
Another smart move may be to change plan letters. For example, if you have an increasingly spendy Plan F with Company X, a good solution is to switch to Plan G or even Plan N.
What if I have a health issue that no new company will accept?
The solution for the people in this situation may be switching to a Medicare advantage (MA) plan during the fall Annual Election Period (AEP and also known as Medicare open enrollment) that runs from October 15th through December 7th. There are pros and cons involved in switching to an MA plan. Please contact us for details. On the other hand, many people are happy enough that they just stay with their current plan. Nothing says that you have to change.
Why is it much easier to switch to a Medicare advantage (MA) plan?
The only health question on an MA application is kidney failure. You could have had a recent stroke, been treated for cancer in the past two years, or have multiple sclerosis, and you still can qualify for an MA plan. Those conditions will likely cause a decline on most any Medsupp company’s application.
However, switching to an MA plan is not feasible for some people if they live in a county that has no available MA plan. The exception is the new Medical Savings Account MA plan that currently is available in all counties in Montana and Wyoming.
How do I qualify for a new Medicare Supplement plan?
To qualify for a new Medsupp plan, in general you will need “No” answers to the following health questions. The language on each companies’ application will vary, but here are the key questions.
1) In the last two years have you had or been treated for circulatory or heart disease including a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, stent placement, atrial-fib, or pacemaker implantation?
2) Have you been treated for internal cancer, melanoma, or lymphoma in the last two years? (Does not include most skin cancers.)
3) Have you had a stroke or TIAs in the past two years?
4) Have you been diagnosed or treated for COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis in the past two years?
5) Have you been hospitalized more than two times in the last two years?
6) Have you been diagnosed with any type of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease? Note: One of our companies will take people with these conditions providing that there are no other major issues.
7) Do you have any planned surgeries such as a joint replacement or a cataract procedure recommended to be completed in the next twelve months?
8) Do you have any auto-immune disease such as AIDs, HIV, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis etc? (Other diseases may be included depending on the company.)
These are the major categories. A company may request additional information.
Routine prescriptions such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes meds are usually okay. Most companies have a drug decline list. Examples are opioids and many cancer related drugs. Most companies require that you list all prescriptions on your application. Certain combinations of drugs such as ones used to treat diabetes (particularly insulin) and hypertension may cause a decline with one or two companies.
Why do we pre-qualify you before applying?
If you have a medical condition that is iffy, we can shop for the company that is most likely to accept your application. One company may be more picky about one particular health issue compared to another. Through the years, we have learned that a certain health issue that may not fly with one company can go through with another.
Why are some people reluctant to change if they can quality for substantially lower rates?
The biggest reason that we have seen is fear. They are afraid that the new company won’t pay its claims. However, this fear is completely unfounded. The plans are standardized, and all companies pay their claims. We have seen some situations where a person could save $80 per month or more by changing out of an old, expensive plan. She won’t budge because she is deathly afraid that the new company won’t pay its claims.
Do you ALWAYS shop for the lowest rate available?
Not necessarily. In fact, there are a couple of companies that we want to avoid like the plague. One of them was owned by one hedge fund that pawned it off to another hedge fund. The game they play is to come out with absurdly low rates. People will chase those rates only to discover that within two years or so the rates are going through the roof.
The game is called “buying the business.” A company is willing to break even or even lose money to get a bunch of people signed up. They also entice agents to peddle their product with high commissions and lucrative production bonuses. Within two years or so they go to the state insurance department, show their losses, and file for big rate increases. Meanwhile, If a person has developed an uninsurable condition, he/she is stuck with that company. Sorry, that’s not a game we’re going to play. We’ll stick with legitimate companies.
How do I find out if I can get lower rates?
Please call us at (208) 746-6283 or (888) 746-6285, or by email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a health situation that you believe may be an issue, contact us anyway, and we’ll see what we can do. End