Why Do I Need a Medicare Insurance Agent?

Medicare insurance agent. Who needs them? Medicare is simple. Pick the lowest rate. Why use and insurance agent? Cut out the broker. Go direct to the carrier. Save the commission.

You Don’t Need an Agent

Medicare expert? Truth is, you don’t need an agent to SELL you a Medicare plan. You can use Medicare.gov, go direct to a carrier or even use one of those online “FREE” quote services. But how will you know if you picked the right plan or paid too much?

Ask a Medicare expert.

Will you save money by eliminating the middleman?

No. This video explains.

Does an Insurance Agent Offer Real Value?

Experience.

About 70% of those who turn 65 and are enrolling in Medicare for the first time have never bought health insurance before. Most people will need to get it right the first time. For many there are no Mulligans. No do-overs. This may be your only chance to buy a Medicare supplement plan.

Medicare supplement rates change every year. Old carriers are retired. New carriers enter Georgia with low initial rates.

You can change Medigap plans anytime you want . . . as long as you are healthy. Medicare expert and insurance agent Bob Vineyard will help you find the right plan that fits your needs and budget.

Those Pesky Drug Plans

Medicare Part D drug plans are complicated. Deductibles, formularies, copay’s, preferred pharmacy’s change every year.

Too many people pay too much for their Medicare drug plan.

Could be they bought the same plan their friends have. Wrong.

Maybe they bought from the carrier that issued their Medigap plan. Wrong.

Sometimes seniors will shop on their own and pick the plan with the lowest premium. Not always correct. Not always wrong. But the criteria is definitely wrong.

Many times they buy a plan suggested by an insurance agent that really doesn’t understand Medicare Part D. This happens way too often.

Check out my YouTube Channel and review drug plan videos.

Learning the Language

Welcome to the world of Medicare where almost everything is a TLE and has an acronym. Here is a friendly introduction.

TLE = Three Letter Entity

CMS = Center for Medicare (and Medicaid) Services

MSN = Medicare Summary Notice

PDP = Prescription Drug Plan

ABN = Advance Beneficiary Notification

Having fun so far. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

Confused?

You have questions. We have answers. Call or email.

Do You Need a Medicare Expert?

Nope.

You can DIY. (Do It Yourself).

But if you mess up who can you blame?

You can spend hours online researching. Attend seminars. Invite strangers (insurance agents) into your home.

But they don’t leave until you buy something or call the cops.

You could also sort through the mountain of information that comes in the mail. Ask your hair stylist or members of your bridge club. Does anyone still have bridge clubs?

Buy direct from a name you trust. Here is a tip. Medicare carriers with familiar names often overcharge, sometimes by hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.

Why?

Because they can.

They know you are buying on name recognition and have not researched. You trust them to treat you right.

They will take advantage of that trust and profit from your lack of understanding.

Give Me 10 Minutes

That’s all I ask.

Look over my website. Watch my videos. Call or email.

Yes, I am an insurance agent. But also an expert with over 40 years experience.

And just like you, I am enrolled in Medicare.

If you don’t feel comfortable with my advice, move on. No hard feelings. I don’t chase. I don’t beg.

Either you want my help and advice or you don’t.

Not only will I save you a lot of time and keep you from chasing rabbits, but you will also learn how to maximize your Medicare dollars.

And isn’t that what this is all about? Finding real value in the advice offered by a Medicare insurance expert.

#GeorgiaMedicareExpert #GeorgiaMedicarePlans

Georgia Medicare Gives Thanks

Georgia Medicare Looks at 2018

As Dickens said, “This is the best of times and the worst of times.” Like all years, there are times when things are good and times when things are not so good. From a business perspective I would give this year a 9 on a scale of 10. Georgia Medicare expert reflects on 2018.

Georgia Medicare expert

The Good News

Georgia Medicare supplement clients continue to bless me with referrals. My business grows mostly by word of mouth. When my advice is useful clients remember and pass my name along to their friends.

Like that old shampoo commercial where Heather Locklear told two friends about Faberge, and they told two friends, and so on.

Good new spreads like wildfire, and it is appreciated. With more than 500 GA Medicare clients, new referrals come in almost every month.

Thank you for being generous and sharing my name with your friends.

Georgia Medicare YouTube Channel

After years of planning and hoping it would happen, I finally implemented my Georgia Medicare YouTube channel in early summer. With the help of Christy Sanchez this labor of love is now a reality.

The videos are not fancy or technically complicated. It’s just me talking to the camera the same way I speak to you on the phone. Feel free to like, share and comment on any of the videos.

Of course you can also ask questions.

Say Hello to New Medigap Carriers

I currently count almost 60 insurance carriers offering Medicare supplement plans in Georgia. Many are brand new to the Medigap business. Others are new to Georgia.

At least 6 carriers are new to the Georgia Medicare market. Each one has cut rates to the bone in an attempt to gain market share.

It’s a race to see who can offer the lowest Medigap rate.

For at least a year.

New carriers include Lumico, Western United (late 2017), Everest (late 2016), American Continental, Prosperity (gotta love that name), Mass Mutual, Unified and Pan American. I might have missed a few but that’s a mouthful.

I generally don’t recommend a carrier until they have been here at least 3 years. In the past carriers (like AFLAC) have either disappeared from the market or blew up their rates on renewal in the first 3 years.

I don’t need that kind of drama in my life and neither do you.

Say Hello to a New Name for an Old Friend

One shining star is Anthem Blue Cross. BCBSGA has been co-branded with parent Anthem for a few years now. As of July 2018 the Anthem name is on all new Medicare plans in Georgia.

Of course you can call them direct or use an agent like myself. When you go direct you are a “house account”. You will never know who will answer the phone or anything about them. 

Last week they could have been asking if you wanted fries with your meal.

When you call me you will never hear “Press 1 for English”. You get me or voice mail. Leave a message and I will call you back.

No extra charge for my 40+ years experience.

You can enroll in an Anthem Medigap plan using my link . . . if you have an hour or so to kill. 

https://brokerportal.anthem.com/ac/BobVineyardAnthemGA

Or call me direct. I can take your information in about 10 minutes.

You choose.

The Bad News

A few carriers like Equitable, Manhattan and Aetna Health and Life stopped writing new Medigap business in Georgia. If you have a plan with them you can keep it as long as you pay your premiums.

I hope to move as many as possible away from these carriers in hopes of seeing fewer and smaller rate increases at renewal.

Thank You!

Thank you for all your support, for passing my name along and especially the kind words for my Georgia Medicare YouTube Channel.

I look foward to helping as many people as possible to navigate the Georgia  Medicare maze.

Turning 65?

Are you turning 65? Will you continue to work and go on Medicare? Or will Medicare be your only health care insurance? Have you learned everything you need to know or do you still have questions? Did you take advice from friends on Medicare? Do you really understand how those Medicare Advantage plans work? Are all Medigap plans really the same?

 

Even if you have already bought a plan, take 3 minutes to read this. It might just save you a lot of time, money and grief.

You are about to go on Medicare. Here are some things you need to know about your journey.

 

Turning 65 – You are not alone

Roughly 80% of retirees turning 65 have never bought health insurance before.

My 40 years in the health insurance business was not enough to prepare me for understanding the Medicare system. It took me about a month of research and talking to Medicare specialists before the light bulb turned on.

If it was that difficult for me I can imagine how confusing it is for you and everyone else.

Your friends that are on Medicare are probably still confused about what they have and how it works. I know this because I talk to people every day that were told something about Medicare that is 100% wrong and will prove very costly down the road.

Ask your friends who THEY talked to in making their decision. If they were pleased, ask for a recommendation. Then you talk with that person and decide if they are giving solid advice or simply pushing a product.

If they bought a $0 premium Advantage plan (along with a bunch of junk to fill the gaps), or Medigap plan F they will learn to regret that choice later down the road.

 

Things you probably don’t know

When turning 65 you have ONLY ONE Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). During that time you can enroll in ANY PLAN from ANY CARRIER without answering health questions. Your initial enrollment for Medigap begins the month when you turn 65 AND go on Medicare Part B. It ends 6 months later.

During your IEP you can freely change Medigap plans within the same carrier or move from one carrier to another without penalty. Most people we talk to will end up paying a lot more for their coverage than was necessary. It is not too late to change. Don’t let pride stop you from making a better financial decision. (More on this later)

You have 63 days from the time you turned 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B to pick a Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan. If you wait, your next opportunity will be during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) and you will pay a LIFETIME late enrollment penalty.

If you bought an Advantage plan and then learned that was the wrong decision you can still purchase a suitable Medigap during your IEP. This happens with some frequency so no need to feel embarrassed.

Many of the newer Advantage plans are “front end loaded” so you pay most of the costs of your care without the benefit of a copay. The networks are also more restrictive than you may have been accustomed to with traditional health insurance.

 

Medigap “gotcha’s”

Medigap is simple, but not as simple as some might think. Sure, the plans are standardized. All plans with the same letter (plan F for example) are identical in every way except the price you pay.

But the simplicity stops there.

Financial ratings don’t matter. “A” rated carriers like AFLAC and Mutual of Omaha have sucker punched retirees in the past.

Look for LONG TERM STABILITY in the Medicare supplement market. If a carrier doesn’t have at least 5 years in the Medigap market operating under the SAME NAME, you probably want to cross them off your list.

Mutual of Omaha, United World, United of Omaha and Omaha Insurance Company have common parentage but the comparison stops there. The names are interchangeable and every 3 – 4 years an old carrier will be swapped for a newer one that has rates 20 – 30% below the “old” carrier. The new, lower rates are only for NEW APPLICANTS.

Aetna Health and Life, Manhattan, Omaha Insurance Company, Companion Life …….. all have “hot” rates in Georgia right now. But none of them have more than 3 years in the Medigap business an at least two have already had a 9% rate increase.

 

My choice

You don’t have to do what I do but consider this. I have more experience in the health insurance business than anyone you have talked to so far. There are some paths I won’t take because I know the pitfalls.

Maybe you should do the same.

I enrolled in Medicare in September, 2015.

I didn’t buy a plan from any carrier with less than 5 years in the Medigap business.

I didn’t buy plan F.

I didn’t buy a Medicare Advantage plan. Even if I did, I certainly would NOT buy a hospital indemnity plan, a cancer plan, a heart attack plan, etc to fill the gaps. Any agent that pushes those policies is more interested making as much money as possible off you than they are in serving YOUR needs.

Ultimately, whatever choice you make should fit your needs and budget. I don’t expect everyone to make the same decisions I make, nor would I pressure anyone to buy something just because I am doing it. But I do believe my clients deserve to know the choices I  makd and why I made them.

If you want to know what I bought and why, just ask.

There are more than 170 different Medigap plans in Georgia. You probably looked at half a dozen or less.

There are only THREE Medicare supplement carriers with competitive rates that have 5 or more years in the Medigap business. If you didn’t buy from them you probably are, or will eventually be, paying too much.

Georgia Medicare Supplement Rates

You are turning 65 and need to make a decision before going on Medicare. Better to review your decision now rather than later.

Let me know how I can help.

 

#Turning65 #GeorgiaMedicarePlans #GeorgiaMedicareSupplementRates

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?

Does Medicare cover hearing tests and hearing aids? Find financial assistance to offset the cost of hearing exams and aids. How Veterans can get help for hearing and vision concerns. Purchase high quality digital aids at a discount.

Welcome to Medicare where the rules are different. No problem. We are here to help. Sit down. Relax. Take your shoes off. We are here to help. And there is never any selling.

There are some situations where Medicare will pay for diagnostic hearing tests if your doctor feels the tests are necessary to start a treatment plan. Always ask your doctor if testing or treatment will be covered by Medicare.

 

Hearing Aids, Dental Care, Eye Exams

If you are turning 65 and trading in your “Big Company” group health insurance plan for Medicare you may be in for a shock. Say goodbye to dental and vision coverage. Most employer plans did not have a hearing aid benefit so no loss there.

The good news is, you can also say goodbye to high deductibles, even higher out of pocket costs and those pain in the butt out of network penalties.

But years of listening to Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and Iron Butterfly may have damaged your hearing.

If your spouse is telling you to turn down the volume it might be time to have your hearing checked.

Hearing aids aren’t the only thing not covered by Medicare. There are quite a few, relatively low cost health care items that are your responsibility. Here are just a few things not covered by Medicare.

  • routine hearing exams and hearing aids
  • regular eye exams, eyeglasses and contacts
  • acupuncture and chiropractic care (unless spinal manipulation is medically necessary)
  • non-emergency transportation
  • cosmetic surgery

The good news is, you have great coverage for major items such as cancer, heart issues, cataracts and joint pain. Original Medicare coupled with supplement plan G means limited out of pocket costs for most health care.

Georgia Medicare Supplement Rates

How to Pay for Hearing Tests and Aids

There are insurance plans that will cover part of the cost of hearing aids but don’t waste your money.  Hearing aids can be very expensive.   But don’t give up hope. Here are a few ideas that may help.

We hope the above links will help in your search for assistance in dealing with hearing loss. If you know of other resources please don’t hesitate to share this with us so we can add to the list. Otherwise you may need to resort to a stylish hearing device like this one.

hearing aids

 

Local hearing resources for Georgia residents include Georgia Hearing Center and Georgia Hearing Institute.

At Georgia Hearing Center, our audiologists have nearly 50 years combined experience in the hearing industry. We strive to provide professional and friendly hearing healthcare to adults and children of all ages.

The Georgia Hearing Institute, affiliated with The ENT Center of Central Georgia, has provided comprehensive audiological services for over 40 years to patients from infancy to adulthood. With locations in Macon and Warner Robins, patients of all ages are benefiting from improved hearing and ultimately, a better quality of life. We are pleased to provide the full spectrum of hearing testing, amplification, and custom products sales and services at both of our locations.

One last link before you go. Crank up the volume and listen to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones belt out “Whole Lotta Love“.

 

#HearingAids #HearingLoss #Deafness #MedicareHearingAids

 

Welcome to Medicare – What’s Covered?

Welcome to Medicare. What’s covered, what isn’t?  In the exam room I notice a sign. “Lab work is not covered by Medicare“. You owe $289. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Welcome to Medicare physical exam? Covered. Lab work? Not covered.  Really? You turned 65 and signed up for Medicare. What happens next?

Here is a short introduction to Medicare. What’s covered, what isn’t,  and what to expect

  • Medicare’s definition of preventive care has surprises
  • Lab work may not be covered
  • Medical necessity is the rule
  • Free exams aren’t always free

Whether you have original Medicare and a supplement or you enrolled in an Advantage plan, the underlying rules of what is covered and what isn’t are the same. The difference is in how you pay for it.

You might want to view our Medicare Exam video on YouTube

Turning 65 – Welcome to Medicare 2018 – What’s Covered?

dr kildareBy the time you reach 65 and enroll in Medicare, most people have a doctor (or doctors) they like and trust. They want to continue that relationship and are not interested in picking a doctor from a list provided by an insurance company.

Georgia Medicare Plans specialize in helping you keep your doctor(s) and finding a Medicare supplement plan that fits your needs and budget. We have rates and information on more than 230 different Medigap plans and will provide a FREE REPORT on all plans based on your age, gender and zip.

You can start your research by comparing rates and benefits for roughly 30 plans by getting an INSTANT GA Medigap quote.

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I understand your confusion. Most people want information so they can understand what lies ahead. They want the time to read, make notes and ask questions.

Most of the insurance agents you will talk to are not old enough to enroll in Medicare and have not experienced it first hand. Bob Vineyard turned 65 in September, 2015 and enrolled in Medicare. In spite of 40 years in the health insurance business and over 400 Medicare clients, I am still learning things every day about how Medicare works.

Ask me anything. Others talk, we listen.

 

Welcome to Medicare Surprises

When I turned 65 and signed up for Medicare, one of the first things I did was schedule my Welcome to Medicare physical.

Because I chose original Medicare and a supplement plan, I was able to keep my doctor. My group insurance plan required me to have an annual exam and wellness interview so there should not have been any surprises with my Welcome to Medicare exam.

That was the wrong assumption.

While waiting in the exam room I saw a notice on the bulletin board.

Lab work is not covered by Medicare

Seriously? What’s that all about?

Preventive screenings are covered by Medicare in the following situations

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm scan – Men only, if you smoked 100 cigarettes in your lifetime
  • Bone density – Mostly women, if you are estrogen deficient or have osteoporosis
  • Lab tests – Only if considered medically necessary by Medicare

What is considered medically necessary?

Medicare defines medically necessary as tests or treatment needed to diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease or symptoms that meet accepted standards of care.

Preventive lab work may not be covered by Medicare.

 

Congratulations! You are healthy. Your test is not covered!

I take no medications. For the last few years my doctor has run routine lab work to make sure my body is doing what it is supposed to. As much as it galls me to say, my Obamacare plan covered routine tests like CBC, Lipid Panel, CMP, etc. at no charge to me.not covered

These tests were not free. The labs and technicians do not volunteer their time. The costs associated with the lab tests were absorbed by the health insurance carrier and baked into the premiums.

Not so with Medicare.

Those under age 65 pay nothing.

If you are 65 and older, there is no more free lunch.

When I asked about the sign on the wall. The one that said “Lab work is not covered by Medicare” her response took me aback.

Medicare generally doesn’t cover those tests if you are healthy. But if you were sick, they would pay for them.

Sign this ABN form. If Medicare denies the claim you will have to pay the cost of your lab work. You will owe $289.

So much for my “free” Welcome to Medicare exam.

 

Medicare physical exam.

Is it covered? Is it free? How much will I have to pay?

Original Medicare is quite good in most respects. No more doctor networks. Forget about balance billing (when you use Medicare providers that accept assignment).  Huge bills for health care are a thing of the past.

So exactly what is covered, and what isn’t? Check out this free Guide to Medicare Preventive Services. And yes, it really is free. Click to download.

 

More ways to save money.

Most of the retirees we talk to are paying too much for their Medicare supplement plan. Many are facing rate increases. One large Mutual company has increased rates 10 times since 2012!

Medigap plan F will be retired in 2020. Switch now if you can. Plan G is popular with over 90% of our clients. Some have not had a rate increase in two years.

Get a free GA Medigap quote.  FREE report listing rates for all plans based on your age, gender and zip code  sent by email once we confirm your information.

 

GA Medigap quote

You need to be informed. The more you know and understand the better it will be for your bank account.

 

#MedicareLab #WelcometoMedicare

Can You Afford Medicare Supplement Insurance?

Can you afford Medicare supplement insurance? Can you afford to NOT have it? How much does it cost? (Less than you think). Which plan is best? How do I find the lowest rate? Should I buy Medigap plan F like all my friends or something different?

Shop and compare GA Medigap plans. Instant rate quote. No hassle. Your information is never sold.

Medicare shop and compare

 

Medicare open enrollment is just around the corner. Others are just now turning 65 and will soon be navigating the Medicare maze.

You can get rates anywhere, but what most people want is information and solid advice without the hype and pressure. You get the benefit of my 40 years experience at no extra cost.

Post summary.

  • How much does Medicare pay for serious illness?
  • Is Medicare Advantage, with the lower premiums, better?
  • $0 premium or $0 copay and $0 deductible?
  • Finding the plan with the best rates and overall value
  • Why avoid Medigap plan F?

 

Can you afford Medicare supplement insurance?

Here are the facts. You decide.

Original Medicare covers about 80% of your medical costs and none of your prescription drug costs. Your remaining 20% share (after Medicare pays their portion) can run into the hundreds in an average year and thousands in a bad year. The 20% you pay is not capped. Your treatment continues until you run out of money.medicare bad news

Many Medicare Advantage plans have $0 premiums. Advantage plans have moving parts, doctor and hospital networks (most are HMO’s), deductibles, coinsurance and copay’s. The plan you buy this year probably won’t be offered next year and you will have to switch plans …… and possibly doctors as well.

Next year you will start this process over again, and then again the year after that. At least the Advantage plans have a cap on your out of pocket costs. Most of them limit your share to $6700 for the year. Then next year you start all over again.

If you are turning 65 and live in Georgia, you can buy our most popular Medicare supplement insurance plan for around $100 per month. About $3 per day.

The one I bought is $104 per month. Beyond the monthly premium my out of pocket cost is limited to the Part B deductible ($147 in 2015) and after that a $20 doctor visit copay.

If I had to go to the hospital my out of pocket cost would be $0.

Sure, I would rather have a $0 premium plan. Who wouldn’t? But I would also rather have to come up with $147 and an occasional $20 than dig into my savings to fork over $6700.

But that is just me.

You may feel differently.

 

Which Medicare supplement plan is best?

That’s simple.

The best plan is the one that fits your needs and budget.

If you are in good health, and don’t care which doctor you use, those $0 premium Advantage plans might be just the ticket. But when your health changes you won’t like them very much. And by then you won’t qualify for a Medicare supplement plan.

If you are turning 65, this may be your one and only chance to buy a Medicare supplement plan.

So is the Medigap plan a better option?

If you can afford $100 per month and find it easier to budget for a fixed premium vs. several hundred or thousand for out of pocket medical expenses, then the Medicare supplement might be what the doctor ordered.

Choose wisely.

Whatever you decide today might have to last you the rest of your life.

 

How do I find the lowest Medigap rate?

That part is easy. Just ask.

Sure, you can go online and shop. Plenty of places to compare rates, including my site. But you will only see a dozen or so plans, even on my site.

telephone oldAnd some of the rate comparison sites are just a come on. They take your information and sell it to a bunch of agents who will call and pester you until you stop answering the phone or buy.

That won’t happen here.

I never sell your information. You will get one call from me and that’s it. After that it is up to you if you want more information or not.

Including the lowest rates in your area.

There are over 170 Medigap plans in Georgia but you will never see more than a dozen or so. The rest are available offline. Heck one of my competitors only shows you plan F from 4 different carriers. What good is that?

Most people want more than just a rate. They want information. They want to know that the decision they make will be the right one,  just in case they have to keep their plan for the rest of their life.

But go ahead and shop now. It won’t hurt and your phone won’t ring off the hook. Because I will only call you once.

Medicare shop and compare

When we talk I will ask a few questions and give you a straight answer to your questions. If you just want the lowest rate I will give you that by phone and follow up with an email.

But if you want to really learn how Medicare works, I will give you all the time you need to feel comfortable with whatever decision you make.

It really is that simple.

 

Should I buy Medicare supplement plan F?

Probably not.

Your friends that bought plan F didn’t talk to me. If they talked to an agent at all they probably don’t even know plans other than F existed.

And the probably paid too much for that plan.bob on fb

If they bought from AARP (United Healthcare), Blue Cross or Mutual of Omaha I can almost guarantee they overpaid.

You see, all the Medigap plans with the same letter are identical in every way …….. except the price.

So it doesn’t matter if they pay United Healthcare $166 per month, or Blue Cross $191 monthly or Colonial Penn $277 per month, they get the same coverage.

When you pay more you don’t get more, you simply paid too much.

That’s me on the right. My daughter took that picture at the Chop House. We went to a Braves game a few years ago and she wanted a picture.

Current plan F rates are expected to increase at least $20 per month in 2016, and probably even more.

By 2020 when plan F is discontinued anyone with plan F can keep it but the premiums will rise at a faster clip than now.

Which sounds better to you?

Buying Medicare supplement plan F that is being yanked off the market in a few years or saving $800 per year (and more) by enrolling in a plan you can keep as long as you live?

Shop and compare now. When I call, give me 10 minutes to educate you and then decide if my advice is worthwhile or not.

Medicare shop and compare

 

 

 

#MedicareSupplementInsurance #MedicareSupplementPlanF  #MedicareOpenEnrollment #MedigapRates

The Secret Life of Medicare Advantage Plans

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Medicare Advantage plans have a secret life. The carrier won’t tell you. Neither will the agent. If you knew these secrets you secret life of walter mittymight change your mind about signing up for one. Consider this. Why does if Medicare Advantage plans are so great, why does Medicare give you an escape clause? Why do some agents that sell you on the idea of an Advantage plan tell you to throw away your red, white and blue Medicare card? Why do agents push Medicare Advantage plans so much? Is there something you need to know that they aren’t telling? Do these Advantage plans really have a secret life? And how can they push these Free Medicare Plans? What’s the catch? Why is turning 65 so difficult when it comes to Medicare?

Have you already decided that original Medicare and a Medicare supplement plan are right for you? We have access to over 170 different Medigap plans from more than 30 carriers. We will freely share information on any plan you want, no obligation.

Want to take a peek at GA Medigap quotes? Click the image below.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Post summary.

  • Turning 65 and signing up for Medicare. How?
  • How good are the free Medicare plans?
  • Why do most agents push $0 premium Advantage plans?
  • How do I get out of the Advantage plan when I realize I made a mistake?
  • Why can’t I keep my doctor?

Medicare Advantage plans secret life

Wanda is turning 65 in a few weeks and is totally confused. Should she stay on her husband’s group insurance plan or go in Medicare? Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan? And what’s up with this free Medicare plan a lot of her friends have?

lady pensiveWanda was referred to me by a dear friend. The two of them had lunch earlier in the day and Wanda told Emily (our mutual friend) that she was turning 65 in a few days and totally confused.

Emily mentioned my name and then emailed me with a copy to Wanda. I called Wanda shortly after responding to the email.

Wanda’s husband works for a big company in Atlanta. They have a very good group health plan through his employer. The plan covers Wanda, her husband and their youngest child. The company pays all but $600/month for health insurance, vision and dental coverage.

Wanda has not signed up for Medicare.

After a short phone conversation I told Wanda what she needed to do.

  • Go online today and sign up for Medicare Part A only.
  • Keep the group plan, at least for now.
  • Do not sign up (yet) for Medicare Part B, Part D or a supplement plan.
  • Throw away all the literature that has been coming in for the last few months.
  • Stop talking to your friends.
  • Forget about the free Medicare plans agents are pushing
  • Call me when your situation changes and you are ready to go on Medicare Part B

That’s it. No sales pitch. No arm twisting. Just an honest appraisal of the situation and advice.

But what about the secret life of Medicare plans?

Read on.

 

Why do your friends sign up for a “free” Medicare plan?

Well, it’s pretty simple. They signed up for a “free” plan because somebody talked them into it.huckster

If someone tells you something is free, don’t you get suspicious? Have you ever received anything of value that was truly free? Isn’t there always a catch?

Here is the first catch.

Medicare does not allow an agent to tell you their Advantage plan is free. If they do say that, they are violating the CMS marketing rules.

$0 premium Medicare plans are not free.

  • You still have to pay your Medicare Part B premium.
  • You are not allowed to use your red, white and blue Medicare card.
  • Every time you see a doctor, have lab work, a scan, are admitted to the hospital you have to pay.
  • If you want to keep your out of pocket costs to a minimum you must use THEIR doctors and hospitals.
  • Your out of pocket costs could easily exceed $500 per month under an Advantage plan.
  • And if these plans are so great, why does Medicare allow you to dis-enroll?

 

One Other Thing in the Secret Life of Advantage Plans.

Medicare does not allow agents to tell you about ALL the plans in your area, only the ones they can sell and earn a commission.

The agent can legally only show you one carrier at a time. If you want information on another carrier Medicare rules say they must wait 48 hours before telling you about the other plan. Apparently the folks at Medicare think you are not smart enough to consider more than one plan at a time.

How silly is that?

So why do agents and carriers push Advantage plans?

They are profitable.

An agent that sells you an Advantage plan makes twice as much commission as they would by offering you a Medicare supplement plan. That alone is pretty good incentive but to make it even better they are paid their full years commission the month after your coverage goes into effect.

You sign up in October. Your coverage goes into effect in January. In February your agent collects $400.

Even on that $0 premium plan.

 

No Premium? How Can That Be?

As if that isn’t enough, some agents will tell you how great the Advantage plan is because you only have to pay $250 per day for the first 7 days you are in the hospital.

Then they will tell you that you need a plan to cover that contingency and will proceed to sell you an extra plan for only $38 per month.

The agent pockets 60% of your monthly premium as their compensation. That’s another $274 in commission over the next 12 months.

Next they might ask if cancer runs in your family, or if you know anyone that had cancer.

The good news is your $0 premium plan pays 80% of the cost of your chemotherapy treatment.

The bad new is, you pay the remaining 20%. The worse news is, some chemotherapy treatments run in excess of $3,000 each.

Medicare pays $2400. You pay $600.

For each treatment.

You really should consider a cancer plan to cover that out of pocket cost. For only $40 per month you can have a plan that covers the costs of chemo and pays you a flat $1,000 for your initial diagnosis.

The agent pockets 60% of that premium as well.

Now your $0 premium plan is costing you $78 per month but at least you have your out of pocket costs for a hospital stay covered as well as your chemotherapy.

And the agent made $962.

You should have called me.

For about the same monthly premium you pay nothing for a hospital stay and your chemo is only $147.

Not per treatment but for the entire year!

And you no longer need to pay for a hospital inpatient plan or a cancer plan.

How sweet is that?

 

Your Medicare Escape Clause

If your Medicare Advantage plan is so great, why does Medicare give you an escape provision?escape hatch

That’s right. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan and later discover you don’t like it you can quit the plan (Medicare calls it dis-enrolling) and go back to original Medicare. It’s called a Trial Right.

You also have an annual dis-enrollment period that runs from January 1 through February 14.

All these ways to QUIT a Medicare Advantage plan. Is it any wonder why it is called the secret life of Advantage plans?

Of course if your agent told you to throw away your red, white and blue Medicare card you will need to get Medicare to send you a new one.

Don’t expect the agent that sold you the Advantage plan, and the hospital plan and the cancer plan to tell you that you can always change to original Medicare if you don’t like the Advantage. Your Trial Right is just another part of the secret life of Advantage plans.

As long as we are talking about secrets, here are some things you need to know.

  • Your Trial Right period doesn’t last forever
  • Your Trial Right may entitle you to purchase ANY Medigap plan.
  • Or you may be limited to only certain plans pre-selected by Medicare
  • Unless you exercise your trial right correctly you may have to go without drug coverage until the next open enrollment
  • Your annual dis-enrollment period comes with some barbs.

When you first turn 65, if you reject original Medicare for an Advantage plan that may be the only time you could enroll in a Medicare supplement plan without restriction.

Choose wisely.

The Medicare Advantage Convenience Factor

Mangled Care

Did you ever wonder how the insurance company can offer you coverage and not charge a premium but still pay the agent over $400 for enrolling you?

It’s a secret.

mangled careManaged care has been part of the fabric of health insurance for 30 years now but too often managed care becomes mangled care. When an insurance company bureaucrat that knows nothing about you or your medical condition decides on your care the outcome is mangled care.

When you reject original Medicare the government pays the insurance carrier a monthly fee to cover some of your expenses. The less THEY pay for your care the more money they get to keep.

When you are diagnosed with cancer ….

  • THEY get to pick your doctor
  • THEY pick your hospital
  • THEY decide which treatment is best for you based on the lowest cost to THEM
  • THEY pay 80% of your chemotherapy (the same amount Medicare pays) and you pay the remaining 20%

Original Medicare does not have mangled care. With original Medicare and your red, white and blue card

  • YOU pick your doctor
  • YOU pick your hospital
  • YOU and your doctor decide which treatment is best for you

Original Medicare pays 80% of the cost of your chemo but with your supplement plan your share is $0 if you have plan F or $183 for the entire year if you have plan G.

One other thing about Advantage plans.

Depending on where you live there may be anywhere from 3 to a dozen Advantage plans available.

  • But your agent can only tell you about the plans he or she is approved to sell.
  • If you want to find out about ALL the plans you have to talk to more agents
  • Each agents can only tell you about the plans they are approved to sell
  • Your agent is not allowed to compare one plan vs. the other

Agents will never tell you this (but I will), you can find out about ALL the plans in your area by calling Medicare. That’s part of the secret life of Medicare Advantage plans. Agents can’t tell you about all the plans in your area.

 

Would you like to see rates on Medicare supplement plans?

We have access to over 240 different plans in Georgia.

We can discuss the benefits and rates of every plan.

You can see plans online and get instant GA Medigap Quotes by following this link.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

If you call us we will offer rate reports and side by side benefit comparisons for any plan offered in Georgia.

We charge nothing for our advice. You get the benefit of my 40 years in the industry at no cost.

I will answer all your questions. Offer advice and let you decide which plan meets your needs and budget.

No risk.

No pressure.

No tricks.

No secret life.

No agenda.

Give us a call. We want to help.

 

#MedicareAdvantagePlans #MedicareTrialRight #MedicareSupplementPlan #Medigap

Medicare Traps and Mistakes

You are turning 65. What are the Medicare traps and mistakes most retirees make in navigating the Medicare maze? One big-mistakewrong decision can cost you thousands of dollars. Your choice is much more complex than just deciding on original Medicare and a supplement plan or Advantage.

There are various ways to go down this journey and no doubt self education is part of the process. You can attend seminars, read the countless brochures and pamphlets that arrive daily before you turn 65 and talk with friends. Whatever you do, just make sure you avoid the Medicare traps that lie ahead.

No doubt the BIGGEST mistake in choosing a Medicare plan is failure to properly estimate the cost of health care.

Maybe my story will help.

I am a baby boomer, going on Medicare in September of this year. In spite of 40 years in the health insurance industry, transitioning to Medicare was more challenging than I expected. Looking at Medicare options reminds me of my first time in Home Depot.

 

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Medicare traps and Home Depot

The first time I walked into Home Depot I was overwhelmed. I am not much of a handy man, but I do know which end of the hammer is useful.

hd hammerHome Depot must have had 100 hammers.

I needed someone to not only point me in the right direction, but explain why one hammer was better than another for the particular work I was doing.

Before Home Depot I owned 1 hammer. Now I have at least half a dozen, each designed for a particular job.

Medicare is the same way.

There are over 170 different GA Medicare plans to pick from. How do you find the right one?

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in choosing a Medicare plan is underestimating the cost of health care.

Most people I talk to are in relatively good health and they assume they will remain that way for years to come.

I hope they do.

But we never know what lies around the next turn of the page on a calendar. Things can happen overnight.

 

Medicare Part D mistakes

One very common Medicare trap is failing to anticipate the cost of health care. More specifically, underestimating the cost of medications under Medicare Part D. drugs

If you have had a decent health insurance plan with Rx copay’s before Medicare you will probably be very disappointed in what you get with Medicare. Drugs that had a $20 copay under a group health plan may be $35 or more.

Diabetics using Novolog can expect to pay anywhere from $55 to $90 or even more for a 30 day supply. After you hit the donut hole your cost increases to $200 for a months supply.

AARP lists Part D goofs in their Top 10 Medicare Mistakes.

Mistake No. 5:
Not signing up for Part D because you don’t take any prescription drugs

Mistake No. 6:
Picking a Part D drug plan on the basis of its premium or its name or because your best friend chose it

If you are like most people, at some point while you are retired your largest expenditure will be for medication. Roughly 70 – 80% of your OOP health care costs will go toward medication.

 

Ken’s Medicare journey

About 4 years ago I met Ken and his wife over coffee at a McDonalds. Both were active and had enjoyed good health. Both were turning 65 and going in Medicare in a couple of months.

They were financially comfortable. Not wealthy but better off than many their age. They had been accustomed to high deductible health plans and wanted the same once they were on Medicare. The high deductible plan F (Hi F) appealed to them as a way to keep their monthly costs down.

They were business owners and, while the business was not going as well as it once did it still provided them with income to supplement their savings and Social Security.

At the time the Blue Cross Hi F plan was reasonably priced around $40 per month. Blue discontinued that plan about a year after they bought it because they lost too much money on it. Premiums for the Hi F have risen by double digits ever since. Aetna has one of the best rates now and is charging around $70/month for someone turning 65.

hospital bed emptyA few months after Ken enrolled in Hi F his health took a turn for the worse. Several weeks in the hospital and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. He was weak, his heartbeat was erratic and they had difficulty stabilizing him.

He was eventually well enough to go home only to return to the hospital the next month, and in a new year.

Medicare Part A, the hospital inpatient portion, currently has a $1260 per admission deductible. When you have Hi F you pay the first $2180 in charges before the plan pays anything.

If your claims cross a calendar year you are looking at more than $4,000 in out of pocket costs.

That’s tough for anyone but to make matters worse, his illness meant he could no longer work. Their business continued to falter which put more financial pressure on them.

In addition to hospital and doctor charges, Ken began a new medication regiment. His drug costs went from less than $100 per month to over $600.

The biggest Medicare trap in my opinion is failing to anticipate your out of pocket health care costs.

In this situation, the worst thing he could have done would have been to have a Medicare Advantage plan where his OOP (out of pocket) costs would have more than tripled from $2,000 per year to $6,000.

Comparing Hi F to plan N is a much better value and in many cases about $30 more per month.

 

Confusing Medicare Advantage and Medigap

Along with buying the same plan your friends have, we often find that retirees think Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement are the same thing. medicare disadvantage

They are not.

Medicare Advantage has a lot of moving parts, usually requires you to use a network provider to avoid penalties, makes it necessary to review (and probably) change your plan every 1 – 3 years, and will end up costing you a lot of money in OOP expenses when you need your plan the most.

Consumer Reports says confusing Medicare Advantage with original Medicare is one of the Seven Medicare Traps and Costly Blunders.

About one in four Medicare recipients opt for the newer Medicare Advantage plans. These are private plans (mostly HMOS) that take the place of original Medicare plus Medigap, and usually the Part D drug plan as well. While you’ll probably pay lower monthly premiums, bear in mind that you will not have Medigap to cover any deductibles and co-pays, which can vary from plan to plan. Thus, one of the downsides of an Advantage plan is potentially higher out-of-pocket costs if you get seriously ill.

Ken (in our story above) did have original Medicare and a Medicare supplement plan (Hi F) and still had over $4,000 out of pocket over 2 years. As bad as that was it could have been over $13,000 with an Advantage plan.

 

More Common Medicare mistakes

At one time your Social Security normal retirement age and beginning Medicare occurred at the same time, age 65. In 1983, long before Congress started raiding the “Trust Fund” to pay current obligations, they decided something had to be done to “save” Social Security.

medicare bad newsBeing politicians, their ingenious way was to DELAY future benefits for baby boomers and younger by changing the NRA (Normal Retirement Age) from 65 to 66 and even later.

Deciding when to start receiving Social Security is one thing, but don’t just assume that your Medicare should coincide with Social Security.

Bottom Line lists failure to sign up with Medicare at number one on their list of Medicare Traps

How much could a sign-up delay cost you? With Medicare Part B (that’s medical insurance), for each full 12-month period that you are late in signing up, a 10% penalty is tacked on to your premiums (basic premiums are $104.90 per month in 2015) for as long as you keep getting Part B. With Part D drug coverage, the penalty is 1% of the “national base beneficiary premium” ($33.15 per month in 2015) multiplied by the number of full uncovered months you were eligible but failed to sign up. The penalty applies if you are not enrolled for 63 days or more in a row when you don’t have creditable prescription drug coverage. (Creditable coverage means that your plan’s coverage is comparable to Part D plans.)

All of that could add up to perhaps $3,000 to $5,000 in penalties over the course of your retirement if you are one year late signing up…or climb to more than $10,000 if you are several years late.

Don’t miss your start date!

Shop and compare GA Medigap quotes

Instant online rates

Your information is NEVER sold!

 

#MedicareTraps  #MedicareBlunders #MedicareDisadvantage  #GAMedigapQuotes


How to Max Out Your Social Security

If you want to max out your Social Security benefit you will need to plan ahead. You can begin receiving Social Security at age 62 but most baby boomers will come out ahead to wait until FRA (full retirement age) at 66. Regardless of when you begin Social Security, most of us will go on Medicare A & B when we turn 65. How much is the spouse benefit?

How much does Medicare cost? Should I stay on my group plan or is it better to begin Medicare at age 65? Can I have Medicare without Social Security?

 

Social Security at age 62 or wait?

If you need to begin Social Security at age 62 for financial reasons, go ahead. It is your money. But if you want to max out your benefits the longer you wait the more you will receive each month. Apply for Medicare

The Catch 22 in your benefit is this. How long will you live?

If you are in relatively good health and your family has a history of living into their 80’s or older there’s a good chance you will have a long life too.

But we never know until we get there.

CNN Money addresses the question, “Should you tap your Social Security benefits early or wait?”.

Many people want to get their hands on their benefits as soon as possible, fearing (incorrectly) that Social Security will go broke. Others enjoy the sense of control they get from investing those funds instead of passively waiting for a higher payment down the road.

In spite of some claims, Social Security will not go broke. Technically, it already is. Excess payroll tax collections have mostly been borrowed by Congress to pay current obligations. The Trust fund is full of IOU’s but that does not mean Social Security will implode.

There are too many of us boomers out there and we are old enough to vote if they try and take Social Security away from us. Yes, I said us. I will turn 65 in September of 2015 and will go on Medicare. My plan is to delay SS until age 66 or possibly later.

 

Social Security planning

If you fail to plan you plan to fail. There is a lot to be said for that old saw.

Back in the old days when we wanted to go on vacation we planned ahead. Many of us ordered at trip planning kit from AAA that contained maps, information on lodging and restaurants and even included brochures of places to see.

That was then.

Now we go on the internet and let Google be our friend. We may map out our trip to get an idea of trip times but rather than bulky maps that never can be folded up neatly we rely on GPS to get us from point A to point B.

We don’t have a retirement GPS and we do need to plan ahead.

Of the items mentioned in the video, long term care planning is often the one that is most overlooked. I have a business associate that handles long term care for me. Let me know if you need an introduction.

 

Turn 65, go on Medicare?

At one time you had no choice. Most people retired at age 65 and some even a few years earlier. If you worked for a “big company” like AT&T or IBM you had a retiree health insurance plan.

But those days are mostly gone.

att retiree health insuranceMany large employers have cancelled their retiree health plan and shuttled their employees off to consultants like Aon or Towers Watson. Instead of a company health insurance plan you are forced onto Medicare. Your former employer may have set up a retiree HRA and made a deposit to help you pay for your Medicare Part B and either a Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plus Part D.

The advice given by the service reps at Aon or Towers Watson is mostly inadequate. You may have also been told the only way to participate in the HRA was to buy your coverage through the consulting firm.

In many cases that may not have been completely accurate.

We helped several retirees find a plan that fit their needs and budget and still retain access to the HRA funding. In every case the premiums for plans we suggested were lower than those for comparable plans through Aon or Towers.

With more than 170 different Medicare supplement plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one for you? I will be glad to discuss the plans I considered as well as the one I will pick when I go on Medicare.

You can begin your search on our site. View plans side by side to compare benefits and rates. Of course we are always available to answer any questions you may have.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Still have questions?

Social Security can be confusing, even more so than Medicare. You are not the only one with questions.

Here are a few links to help you find your path and max out your Social Security benefits.

How to Max Out Your Social Security Checks

How to Calculate the Spousal Benefit

Social Security Spouse Benefits – The Rules of the Road

If you found this post to be of benefit please share it with your friends. Let us know how we can help.

 

#SocialSecurity #Medicareturning65 #AT&T

Home Depot and Medicare

The first time I walked into Home Depot I was overwhelmed. All I wanted was a hammer. What I didn’t know was, what kind of hammer I needed. Home Depot must have had 50 different kinds of hammers. hammers and medicare

All I wanted was to drive a few nails into some lumber.

Medicare is the same way, but different.

When you turn 65 and enter into the Medicare system for the first time it can be like my venture to Home Depot. It can be very overwhelming.

Feel free to browse around our Medicare “store” where you can shop and compare plans with one click in the comfort of your home.

medicareplansgeorgia

 

Home Depot knows hammers

Did you know there are claw hammers, tack hammers, ball pein hammers, cross pein hammers, club hammers, sledge hammers …………

The list goes on.

Fortunately for me there were people who knew how to help me. What kind of project am I doing? Am I handy with tools? Will there be other projects next year? How much can I afford to pay for a hammer? Do I need anything to go with my hammer, such as band-aids? Will I need an electric hammer or will a manual one work?

So many questions. Who knew that choosing a hammer would be so difficult?

The same is true with Medicare.

 

Choosing a Medicare plan is like picking out a hammer

cartoon medicare more complicated than rocket science When you turned 65 you probably talked to your friends about Medicare. What kind of plan did they have? Did they like it? Why did they buy it?

You also have received tons of stuff in the mail. Some from Medicare but most from insurance carriers pushing their plan.

Medicare used to be simple.

You turned 65. You went on Medicare. You picked out a supplement plan.

Now there are drug plans and Advantage plans. PPO’s, HMO’s, POS plans and more.

Let’s face it. You’re not in Kansas any more.

Too bad there’s not a Home Depot for Medicare.

 

No Home Depot, but you can get close

More like an Amazon for Medicare.

Georgia Medicare Plans is like shopping on Amazon for Medicare but with the personal service and expert advice you expect from a Home Depot.

Welcome to our “store”.

We welcome the DIY crowd at Georgia Medicare Plans. Feel free to look around, compare rates and plans. Make yourself at home.

We are here to help and answer any questions, but only if you need it. There is never any pressure to buy anything. You are free to enter and leave at your discretion, but we hope you will stay and ask a few questions.

Bob Vineyard has worked in the health insurance field since 1975 and specifically focused on Medicare for the last 5 years. We understand your frustrations.

You have questions. We have answers.

What is the difference in Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement? What is a Medigap plan? Do I need a drug plan if I don’t take any medications? Which plans are accepted by my doctor? Which plans pay better than others? Which ones do not require me to file a claim? Is Medicare supplement plan F better than a Medicare Advantage plan? Do I need a supplement plan to go with my Advantage plan?

We are like Home Depot and Amazon. Personalized help and online shopping.

 

May I help you?

The most dreaded words in retail.

Most of the time we look away and say “No thank you, I am just looking”. Never make eye contact. If you do you know to get ready for a sales pitch.

At Georgia Medicare Plans there are no sales pitches. We don’t pester you to make an appointment. I won’t come to your home. I won’t try to sell you something you don’t need or want.

Most people that turn 65 think they are shopping for a Medicare plan. bob on fb

They are wrong.

What they really need is someone that knows the Medicare system and can explain it in ways they can understand ………….. in 10 minutes or less ………….. over the phone.

You are not shopping for a plan. You are shopping for an agent. That’s me on the right, in the Chop House at Turner Field.

I am here to help.

And I won’t make you buy a hammer.