If you are approaching the age of 65, you are probably all too familiar with postcards in your mailboxes telling you that if you call this 800 number, you’re going to get enrolled into the best Medicare plan for you on the planet! Everything will be free, perks galore will arrive on your doorstep – Just call the 800 number to hear more about it.
Or, you’ll get a phone call from an agent telling you that they happen to represent the best carrier in the state of Michigan (our home state) and that if you’ll just accept a short meeting at your kitchen table at 7pm on Tuesday evening, the agent will be happy to share this secret carrier’s information with you. Since you need to have something to supplement your Original Medicare, you surely want to have the best of the best as far as insurance carriers go, so you may as well arrange this meeting, right?
The Medicare industry fascinates me on so many levels.
- It is built to be complex and confusing;
- Information about Medicare products seem to be everywhere; yet nowhere!;
- It’s not rocket-science. If you follow certain guidelines, the system can almost make sense!
Number 3 sounds hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. We try each and every day to enhance our system so that Medicare can be a rather cookie cutter learning process. Do A, then B. You’ll arrive at C and you’ll arrive there in good shape with a product you understand and you are happy with.
So why all the secretive stuff built into the current system?
If you’re at the point in life where you need to look to Medicare as your next step for health insurance, have you ever tried to call an agent or an agency to get a QUOTE. Only a QUOTE? When I say, “quote”, I’m talking about receiving a PDF from an agent with a whole bunch of Medicare Supplement carriers listed on it that are available to you in your zip code and at your current age.
A quote for a Medicare Advantage plan is a bit different because age doesn’t matter, only your zip code does so it is much easier to visit a carrier site to access that information. (Thus, we’re only talking about Medicare supplement (a.k.a. Medigap) quotes here)
The world of Medicare supplements is different. We meet many people on our phone lines that are exasperated and say “I can’t find any agent out there to just give me a quote of all the carriers that I can choose from”.
One starting point is Medicare.gov where you can search for Medigap carrier pricing HERE. It’s not the greatest in terms of layout and the information, I find, can be difficult to decipher. They list carriers based on their rating methodology which can send consumers down another Medicare-related researching rabbit hole.
Back to the agent world… In an effort to control the data that you receive, the agent can attempt to control the sale. A sale is compensation.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with compensation as we are an insurance agency in Michigan that sells Medicare products to people and we are paid by insurance carriers for doing so. It’s just like your auto or home insurance policy. You don’t have to pay extra to work with us, the commission is built into the product. We don’t have to charge consulting fees when we operate like this. It can be great for the consumer.
I ran a quote this morning for my Michigan zip code and it resulted in approximately 30 Medicare supplement policies available to a consumer that is 65 years old and wants pricing on a Medigap Plan G.
At Giardini Medicare, we don’t even offer all 30 carriers. Why? Some (in our opinion) are not ones that we’d like to deal with. Some are new to the Medicare space. We’ve seen carriers new to this area and 3 years later, they exit. If you are a policyholder with that carrier? You may not be happy with what follows.
Of those 30 carriers, the pricing ranges from a low of $104 per month to $140 per month. That’s a pretty big spread when you remember that these policies are standardized (meaning they offer identical coverage from one Plan G to the next Plan G). Some people shop according to the lowest price out there. Sometimes a new carrier will come to market and offer low pricing. Does that mean it’s a good long term play for you? Maybe; maybe not.
Some people will analyze each of the 30 carriers investigating their past rate increases and try to extrapolate that into future data so that they can pick the most stable carrier out there.
Impossible in my opinion. ⭐️ Guess what – you’ll never outsmart an actuary at an insurance carrier (again, my opinion). And, we as agents don’t have access to future data and if we don’t have it; you’re never going to find it.
We tend to work with tried and true carriers that have been in the Medicare arena for a number of years. Some of the big names that work well in Michigan are United Healthcare (the AARP endorsed plan), BCBSM, Priority Health, HAP, Aetna, Bankers Fidelity, Cigna and a few others. We’re comfortable with how they operate, how they treat the consumer, how they work long term. We’ll watch new carriers come into the space and see how they do or watch them fizzle out. With a Medicare product, you really don’t want to be in a position of your carrier closing up shop. It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen.
New carriers can get agents fired up to sell their product by having sales bonuses and more. It can be hard to discern why an agent may only give you a rate for one carrier. Some are what we call “captive agents” – they can only provide the products for one carrier as they are more like “employees” than agents. True independent agents like us can offer any product through whatever carrier we choose to contract with.
Take your time talking through carrier selections. Get quotes if you’d like. Oh yeah, no one will send you a quote without holding the sales presentation at your kitchen table you said?
We will. If you’d like a quote of all Medigap carriers in your zip code delivered to your email inbox, email us at: email@example.com
Include your name, DOB and zip code and request for “Plan G” for example and we’ll shoot something back to you.
Then you can look at all 30 carriers and let the real confusion begin!
Joanne Giardini-Russell is a Medicare Nerd & the owner of Giardini Medicare, helping people throughout Metro Detroit and the country transition to Medicare successfully. Contact Joanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 248-871-7756.