Dear Tom and Alan:

I’m on a Medicare supplement plan and have been for three years (I just turned 68).

My plan works great, except it keeps going up every year. I didn’t really do much shopping for this plan when I turned 65, so I just signed up for Anthem Blue Cross because that’s what I had for years.

My wife is going to be 65 this summer and she’s not as lazy as I am. In fact, she wants to know everything about every plan, every company.

Yikes! Do we even have a lot of companies doing supplements in our area?

Stumped

Tom: There are many insurance companies that offer Medicare Supplement plans, including, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, United Healthcare/AARP, Mutual of Omaha, Cigna, and, recently, Aetna and Transamerica. About this time every year, the rates change. This year, we’re looking at approximately 7 percent higher.

The cool part of the combination of Medicare and a supplement is that you no longer have to worry about those dang confusing networks of contracted physicians.

As long as the doctor, lab, hospital, etc. accept Medicare, you are golden and the supplement of your choice will pay secondary to Medicare. If you are looking to eliminate out of pocket expenses, then Plan F is your choice, hands down.

Al: By the way, each company will list all the available plans, A through N, but none of them offer every single plan. For example, Mutual of Omaha offers three plans: A, F and G. The thing to remember is that the benefits of Plan F are exactly the same no matter which company you choose.

Tom: Correct. All of the companies are wanting to enroll the “newly 65s” because, as our reader has shown, most don’t bother to change or to look into something different. So, many of them offer discounts for those “ageing in” in order to get there first.

For Stumped’s wife, Blue Cross would knock down the age 65 Plan F rate from $152 to $132 for the first year. There are also discounts for having automatic monthly checking deductions rather than receiving a bill in the mail. Of course, some give a discount just for having two subscribers in the same household.

Al: A fairly new wrinkle with many plans is having a “tobacco” and a “non-tobacco” rate.

Here are the “non-tobacco” pre-discount rates for a brand new 65 year old on a Medicare supplement Plan F:

-Anthem Blue Cross—$152

-Blue Shield—$152

-United Healthcare AARP—$145 (must be an AARP member)

-Mutual of Omaha—$149.79

-Cigna—$148.83

-Transamerica—$160.80

-Aetna—don’t have their rates yet

- Healthnet—$156

Tom: Now Stumped can drive himself crazy shopping for a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan so they don’t get penalized for not having one!

Submit questions or reach the Health Insurance Guys at Schrette Insurance, 1556 First St., Suite 105, Napa, 94559; 255-9511; schrette@gmail.com; or alancash@gmail.com

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