Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Medicare Annual Election Period

A Medicare broker, Vice President of Senior Benefit Services (SBS) located here in Columbia, MO., presented a meaningful program at Provision Living last week. I am writing this so I do not have to remember how to do a complete review of Medicare policies each year. It must be done each year.

Once again knowledge is power and money. We went from a $11,000 per year Medicare insurance premium to zero a year ago (see 14 March 2016 post). We planned to stay with the same company in 2017, but cost is just one item. There are a number of others that can all change from year to year, including the company dropping coverage in our county. It would be nice to have a simple way of making this annual review.

Google yielded nothing I was looking for about brokers. I eventually found eHealth Medicare that is close to Medicare.gov but it did not list our Boone county 5-star HMO. Healthmarkets seems to be an incomplete version of Medicare.gov but also sells policies.

Medicare.gov lists all the companies, plans, and prices, but does not sell anything. Drug comparisons are flaky unless the compared companies use the same drug providers. Premiums, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, and drug expenses remain the main differences for residential care residents [catastrophic expenses].

Essence Health Care, Boone County HMO, for example, has zero premiums, zero drug expenses and a maximum out-of-pocket expense of $2,900. Is this the best deal for 2017? It is the only five star company in Missouri. It provides the same services as the company charging $11,000/yr, in network, in 2015.

My brother’s insurance company hired a broker to optimize its services. Insurance companies are willing to pay experienced people to find the best fit in the current Medicare market.

In summary, a real Medicare broker (licensed to represent a full range of options) costs you nothing to review the year’s offerings. Print out a list of companies and policies in your county from Medicare.gov; so you know the full range of options.

Offering plan F but not plan G, and omitting HMOs removes low cost options. Most companies in Missouri pay a top commission of $443 per each new advantage policy sold (CMS.gov, Agent Broker Compensation). A commission is earned only if you change companies or policies. Check with your current agent.

We must do this every year as Medicare is as much a political process as a rational business process. Pick bottom dollar premiums; lowest maximum out-of-pocket expense; all doctors, hospital and drugs in network; and top star rating.

There is no guarantee that your 2016 policy will be offered in 2017. My brother’s broker split their coverage between two companies to obtain the best price for prescriptions.

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