Janesville78.1°

Event offers details on Medicare

Print Print
GINA R. HEINE
November 4, 2008
— Choosing Medicare supplemental insurance can be daunting, especially for salaried General Motors retirees losing their benefits because they've never had to sort through non-employer insurance plans, area insurance sales representatives said.

That's why area providers—WPS Health Insurance, Dean Health Plan and MercyCare Health Plans—offered sessions and one-on-one discussions Monday at the Pontiac Convention Center to help seniors better understand their supplemental choices.


It was an "historic event" to see three competitors come together to share plan information, said Steve Freitag, sales consultant with WPS.


Freitag provided an overview of things to understand and consider. If you're eligible for Medicare, the most common health insurance options are:


-- Medicare only: The least-chosen option, and out-of-pocket costs can be very high, Freitag said. Part A covers hospital stays while Part B covers everything except in-hospital stays.


-- Medicare Advantage plan: Replaces original Medicare, he said. Insurance companies contract with Medicare to offer plans, and Medicare reimburses the company. Premiums can vary widely with some as low as zero, but, unlike a supplement, coverage is subject to change or termination annually, Freitag said.


-- Medicare with a Medicare supplement plan: You must be covered by Medicare Parts A and B to buy a supplement, which pays out-of-pocket costs for services covered by Medicare, he said. Prices, options and long-term stability of the plans vary from each company.


Supplements are guaranteed renewable. Once you're signed up, it is set for life with no benefit changes, though rates change, Freitag said.


Plans can be offered with no co-payments or deductibles, and there's no paperwork to handle, he said. Once you have Medicare as your primary payer, you have the freedom to visit any doctor or hospital.


-- Medicare with an employer-sponsored plan: Options differ with each employer.


Freitag suggested these tips when considering Medicare plan alternatives:


-- Look for a company that's been around for awhile and consider its record.


-- "The cheapest plan is not necessarily the best long-term option for you," he said.


Plans sometimes increase in cost with age, and all are adjusted annually by the economy and claims history, so look at the overall, long-term plan.


"You want to make sure that you're not setting yourself up with a plan that's very inexpensive here, and five, six, seven years down the road—when you're a little older, maybe have a health issue—they go way up," he said. "Then you've got a health issue, now, and it's hard to switch."


-- "Just because the plan has no monthly premium doesn't mean it's not going to cost you a lot of money," he said.


-- Don't be pressured. Don't let a salesperson pressure you into enrolling, especially at a seminar, he said. Take time to think about your decision.


-- Get advice from professionals such as county benefit specialists or senior advocates if you have concerns about a plan being offered to you.


-- Make sure your decision is not just good for now, but for the long term, too, he said.


TO RESEARCH PLANS

All three providers at the Medicare information event Monday hope to offer more informational events. Watch for upcoming events and check out each provider’s Web site for more information on plans:


-- MercyCare Health Plans: www.mercycarehealthplans.com


-- Dean Health Plan: www.deancare.com/healthplan


-- WPS: www.wpsic.com



Print Print