Category Archives: Medicare Updates

Top 5 Changes to Medicare | 2019

enroll in medicare 2018

Are you informed on Medicare 2019?

October 15th marks the beginning of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which means it’s time for seniors to review their drug and health care plans. You have until December 7th to enroll, so as you consider your options, here are the biggest new changes that are in play.

1. MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS (PART C): Extending the Dis-Enrollment Period

After the AEP closes, Medicare Advantage plan enrollees now have a full 3 months to make one change: to either switch plans or opt out of Medicare Advantage plans altogether. For those who want to switch plans, this extension gives enrollees more time to review the plan they chose during AEP, and for those who opt out, they have more time to return back to Original Medicare and add a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
This extended dis-enrollment period is from Jan. 1 – Mar. 31.

2. PART D: Premiums projected to go down again!

According to the CMS, average Part D premiums are projected to go down for the second year in a row. The decreases vary among prescription plans, and some may not change, but as a whole, seniors can expect to see lower prescription drug costs.

3. PART D: Congress is closing the Donut Hole early for brand-name drugs

Yes, you heard that right, Congress is ahead on a deadline. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies close the gap or “donut hole” for all prescription drug coverage by 2020, but for brand-name drugs, Congress is closing it in 2019. What is the donut hole? It’s been a gap between spending thresholds in between which prescription drug costs were not covered. For example, in 2018,  it meant that your Part D prescriptions were only covered up to $3,750, and coverage only kicked back in after you had spent $5,000 out-of-pocket.

Although average premiums are going down and the donut hole is being closed across all plans, the Annual Enrollment Period is the only time of year you can change your Part D plan, so you should definitely consider reviewing it. Part D plan all differ slightly in their coverage in regards to different prescriptions, so seniors should look at the available 2019 options to make sure they are still on the best plan for their current prescription needs.

4. PART B PREMIUMS: Increase slightly from 2018

For new enrollees and those who are not on Social Security, Part B premiums will go up by $1.50 from $134/month in 2018 to $135.50 in 2019. In addition, the Medicare Part B annual deductible will show a slight increase to $185 (from $183).

For those who are on Social Security, read on. Part B premiums are deducted from your Social Security check, so last year you saw premium increases keeping pace with your Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA). Why? During years where there is no Social Security COLA, Part B premiums cannot increase for Social Security beneficiaries regardless of increases elsewhere, like for new enrollees. 2019 is bringing another significant COLA increase of 2.8% to Social Security, so Part B premiums may increase to match that (we’ll update this post when these numbers are announced. So, your Social Security checks will increase, but that extra money may go to pay your higher Part B premiums (we’ll keep you posted!).

5. PART B PREMIUMS: Higher-income individuals still pay a higher Part B surcharge

Many high earners saw a significant increase last year with a change in the income brackets. For 2019, CMS has added an additional bracket at the top for the highest earners. While in 2018, the highest bracket started at $160,000 for single ($320,000 for married), in 2019, the highest bracket (and premium) starts at $500,000 for individuals and $750,000 for married couples.

The new higher income brackets look like this:

  • $352.20/month:
    Individuals: $133,500.01–$160,000
    Married/Joint: $267,001.01–$320,000
  • $433.40/month:
    Individuals: $160,000–$500,000
    Married/Joint: $320,000–$750,000
  • $460.50/month:
    Individuals: $500,000+
    Married/Joint: $750,000+

YOUR NEXT STEPS?

Knowing the changes for 2019 can help you make the most informed decision about whether you should change your Medicare plan. But please remember that any savings you may discover by switching plans have no effect if you do not enroll by December 7. Open enrollment has only one deadline and no extensions.

You can enroll for Parts A and B online through Social Security, by calling the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting in-person at a Social Security office. The majority* of new seniors have a 7-month window to sign up for Original Medicare—3 months preceding and 3 months following your 65th birthday.
(*If you are between the ages of 62-65 and already receive SSI benefits, you will be auto-enrolled in Medicare.)

Once you’ve signed up, make sure you have a trusted and independent Medicare agent help you decide between a Supplement + Part D plan and a Medicare Advantage Plan. Only with an agent or firm who is independent of any partnerships or contracts with insurers are you guaranteed unbiased assistance.

Email or call Robert today to get on his November calendar to help you make any changes you need.

 

Plan F: Changes Coming in 2020

hand pointing to the year 2020Do you have a Medigap Plan F? What changes you need to know now.

You may have heard that changes are coming to Medicare Supplements in 2020. In 2015, Congress passed MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act), a bipartisan law to provide physicians with incentives and higher pay to accept and treat more Medicare patients. MACRA added value and quality to Medicare plans, but in order to pass this, Congress needed to make changes to how Medicare patients used their supplement plans. MACRA specifically phases out Plan F and C because these plans don’t require patients to meet a deductible (essentially, it was rolled into your monthly premium), and this resulted in patients sometimes over-visiting the doctor for minor complaints.

So, who does this affect?

Most directly, MACRA affects those who will be eligible for Medicare in or after the year 2020. For all those enrollees, Plan F, High Deductible F, and the less popular C will no longer be offered. For those who are eligible before 2020, but are waiting to enroll because of employer coverage, you will still have the option to enroll in Plan F (although we don’t recommend it—keep reading to see why).

What if I currently have Plan F?

If you are currently enrolled in Plan F, you have the option to be grandfathered in and keep Plan F, but because fewer people will be on Plan F, your rates will continue to go up for the same coverage! A better option is to switch to a Plan G or N and not worry about the 2020 change. For those on the high deductible Plan F, our understanding is that a high deductible Plan G will be introduced (we’ll update this post with those details when we know them).  We strongly recommend that you switch from Plan F to a Plan G, because this won’t result in a significant change in coverage, and it’s quite likely that your rates will decrease.

How do I choose between Plan G and Plan N?

For those who are younger than the age of 70, we recommend Plan G, as it provides the same level of coverage as Plan F; the difference being a lower monthly premium with an annual deductible of $183. For those who are older than age 70, we generally recommend Plan G or N, although with Plan N, we advise a direct conversation with an independent agent who can carefully review that plan with you, as holds unique complexities. If you still feel reluctant to switch plans, you can review how the coverage compares here, and review how current sample rates compare in the chart below.*

65 70 75 80
  Male  Female   Male  Female   Male  Female   Male  Female
Plan F $130.12 $114.82 $133.15 $116.13 $153.67 $133.63  $192.15 $167.09
Plan G $103.87 $94.43 $111.55 $101.41 $134.19 $120.62 $155.11 $141.01
Plan N $87.71 $76.30 $98.21 $85.38 $116.12 $100.96 $136.28 $118.54

*(1) All rates are non-tobacco and non-discounted rates. Household discounts may be available on a case-by-case basis. And, tobacco user rates may be higher.

As you can see, Plan G and Plan N are already less costly than Plan F and the savings more than compensate for the $183 annual deductible that Plan G and N require; in our example, a 65-year-old non-smoking male on Plan G annually pays—with deductible included—a total of $1,429.44, while annually paying $1,561.44 with Plan F.

What should I do next?

Your next step should be to discuss the 2020 changes with an informed, reliable, and independent agent. An independent agent can advise you to implement the most valuable changes to your Medicare plan. At Griffin Insurance Solutions, we are successfully guiding our current clients through these changes, and we can help advise you as well. To learn more about the changes coming in 2020 or any other questions you may have about Medicare, please contact us for an in-person appointment, by email, or phone at 919-704-6147 or 800-774-1434.

 

NEW MEDICARE CARDS | WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

new vs old medicara cards 2018

NEW MEDICARE CARDS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Medicare is sending you a new card. Starting this month, Medicare has started issuing and mailing out a new type of Medicare card to all enrollees. These new cards comply with a bi-partisan 2015 law that requires Medicare to remove all Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from Medicare cards by Spring of 2019.

First and foremost, we can tell you that the new cards will not affect or change your Medicare coverage at all. But, there a few important points you need to know about them.

How are they different?

Most importantly, the new cards no longer carry the cardholder’s SSN. Instead, you will be issued a unique Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that you can find on your new card. The primary goal of the new cards and MBI numbers is to improve security and fight medical identity theft. Doctors and healthcare providers know about this change and will ask for your card and will use new Medicare number. Your MBI will replace your SSN for all Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claims. And just like with your SSN, only give out your Medicare number to providers that you know and trust.

Second, the new Medicare cards have a new design and are now made of paper, making it easier for medical providers to make photocopies

How do I get my new card?

You will automatically receive it in the mail. Processing takes time, so not all Medicare enrollees will receive their new cards at the same time. You do not need to call to request a new card unless you have a new address or will be moving. To update your address, or to request a replacement card because yours is lost or stolen, visit your mySocial Security account.

What else should I know?

Once you receive your new card, bring it to all new medical appointments, and destroy your old card in a secure way. You will not need the old one any more. Your new card may not come right away, so don’t worry about using it until it arrives.

Destroy only your old Medicare card. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan ID card (because you have an HMO and PPO), you will continue using that card as your primary Medicare card. However, since medical providers may also ask to see your new Medicare card, bring that to your appointments as well.

If you forget your Medicare card at home when you go to the doctor, don’t worry; they will most likely be able to look up your new MBI.

Anything else?

Be aware of scammers. Social Security and Medicare will not call you for any reason regarding these new cards. If you receive a call asking for your personal information, your credit card, or your SSN, for “processing reasons” or “to receive your new card,” hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

You can also report it over the phone at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).

Griffin Insurance Solutions can address any other questions or concerns that you have about your new Medicare cards. Please reach us by email or phone at 919-704-6147 or 800-774-1434

 

 

Top 4 Changes to Medicare | 2018

enroll in medicare 2018


So what’s new to Medicare in 2018?

1. PART D: Premiums have gone down

Yes, you read that right, they are a bit lower overall for 2018. Although the prices are down a bit, each Part D plan will differ slightly in its coverage, so seniors should be sure to review the varying plans and available options and make sure that, for 2018, they are on the best plans for their prescription needs.

2. PART B PREMIUMS: Increasing for some, unchanging for others

For new enrollees and those who are not on Social Security, Part B premiums will not change for 2018 ($134/month), which is great news. On the other hand, for those on Social Security whose Part B premiums are deducted from their Social Security check, you will see your premiums playing catch up. How so? During years where there is no Social Security COLA (cost-of-living adjustment), Part B premiums must not increase for those on Social Security regardless of increases for new enrollees, etc. Since 2018 is finally bringing a significant COLA increase of 2% with Social Security, Part B premiums will now be permitted to increase to match that. So although your Social Security checks will be increasing, that extra money will go to pay your higher Part B premiums, and average Part B premiums have jumped from $109/month to $134. This leaves seniors taking home the same amount of money as before from Social Security, despite the COLA increase.

3. PART B PREMIUMS: Higher-income individuals will pay a higher Part B surcharge

It isn’t so much that the Part B surcharges have changed so much as that the income brackets for higher earners have changed considerably. Prior to 2018, the highest Part B surcharge was limited to individuals making more than $214,000 and married couples at $428,000. In 2018, the highest bracket now starts at $160,000 for individuals ($320,000 for married). Only individuals making more than $133,500 and couples earning more than $267,000 will see the increase.

Here’s how the new higher income brackets look:

-$348.30/month:
Individuals: $133,501-$160,000
Married: $267,001-$320,000

-$428.60/month:
Individuals: more than $160,000
Married: more than $320,000

4. MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS: Fewer plans will offer low caps for out-of-pocket expenses

In the past, the available options for Part C that capped out-of-pocket expenses at $4,000 were aplenty. In 2018, the number of plans that offer that cap is significantly lower. Many Part C plans will still offer $0 monthly premiums, but without the out-of-pocket cap, seniors may end up paying much more for any traditional Medicare (Part A and B) expenses than they predict.

5. MEDICARE SUPPLEMENTS: No changes

Prices aren’t much different from 2017. Considering the increase in the cap on Advantage Plans, that may make Medicare Supplement plans for many seniors more appealing, budget-friendly option. Prices on supplemental plans can change from month to month, so buying early in your 7-month window can offer some advantages.

YOUR NEXT STEPS?

Knowing the changes for 2018 can help you make the most informed decision about your healthcare needs and budget when you enroll in Medicare. You can enroll for Parts A and B online through Social Security, by calling the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213, or in person at a Social Security office. The majority* of new seniors have a 7-month window to sign up for Original Medicare, 3 months preceding and 3 months following your 65th birthday. (*If you are between the ages of 62-65 and already receive SSI benefits, you will be auto-enrolled in Medicare.)

Once you’ve signed up, make sure you have a trusted and independent Medicare agent help you decide between a Supplement+Part D plan and a Medicare Advantage Plan. Only with an agent or firm who is independent of any partnerships or contracts with insurers are you guaranteed unbiased assistance.