Many of those who are eligible for Medicare aren’t aware that agents exist to help guide them through the Medicare process and with Medicare insurance. Some of the most common questions asked are: “What is a Medicare Agent?”, and “How do Medicare agents get paid?” In short Medicare agents are individuals licensed by the state to support you with exploring your Medicare health insurance options like, prescription drug plans, Medicare advantage plans, and Medicare supplement plans. They also support with enrolling to Medicare by educating you not only on the process but also the expectations moving forward. Medicare insurance agents get paid by the insurance plans they enroll you into. You should never pay a broker fee or have to personally compensate the agent that assists you. Medicare has made it such that all Medicare plans pay identical to each other, so the incentive is to enroll you into the plan that is best fit for your needs, not the plan that pays the best.
Where can I apply for Medicare?
If you’re new to the whole process and are asking “Where can I apply for Medicare” an agent is a great place to start. Especially with guidance through the common questions you may have, such as:
Where can I find a Medicare enrollment application?
Many people don’t actually apply by paper anymore. Most Apply for Medicare either online at social security or by calling into social security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If you would still like to apply by paper, you can find an application in any Social Security office.
Can I sign up for Medicare online?
Yes! Save time from having to drive and wait at the Social Security office or wait on hold for a representative by phone. Once submitted online, someone at Social Security will review your application and call you to confirm any additional information needed or if anything seems incorrect. So, you can apply online with the peace of mind that someone is going to review your application with the intention of making sure your application is accepted.
What is the Medicare enrollment period?
For most, you can enroll into Medicare as early as 3 months before your birth month. So, if your birthday is May 15th, then you can apply as early as February 1st. This enrollment period will extend until 3 months after your birth month. In our May 15th birthday example, you would have until August 31st to apply for Medicare. Important Note: if you are keeping employer coverage, then you will be able to apply for Medicare once you leave the employer coverage and will have two months from the time the coverage ends to do so (please check with your HR department that you have Creditable Coverage).
Do I have to apply for Medicare Part B?
It depends. With Medicare you never “have” to do anything; however, you may be penalized financially for failure to do certain things. If you do not apply for Part B when you are first eligible, then you will receive a penalty when you finally decide to enroll for not doing so initially. An exception to this rule is if you are keeping employer coverage after you are eligible for Medicare. Then you don’t have to apply for Part B as long as you have Creditable Coverage through the employer plan.
What is my Medicare eligibility?
Eligibility for Medicare is determined by meeting at least one of the following qualifications:
- You are 65 years of age or older
- You have been disabled and receiving SSDI for 24 consecutive months
- You have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
- You have ESRD (End-Stage Renal Disease)
Is it mandatory to sign up for Medicare at age 65?
Similar to the above Part B question, it depends. With Medicare you never “have” to do anything; however, you may be penalized financially for failure to do certain things. If you do not apply for Part B when you are first eligible, then you will receive a penalty when you finally decide to enroll for not doing so initially. An exception to this rule is if you are keeping employer coverage after you are eligible for Medicare. Then you don’t have to apply for Part B as long as you have Creditable Coverage through the employer plan.
How to apply to Medicare in my area?
Applying for Medicare is a universal process. It is the same whether you’re in Orange County or Fresno County. You can apply for Medicare either online at social security or by calling into social security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If you would like to apply by paper or in person you can visit any Social Security office in town. To find an office near you CLICK HERE.
Independent Medicare Insurance Agents
We at HRBC Insurance are what you call an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent. What this means is that we serve your county by offering all Medicare insurance options available to your community. Some agents will only represent one or two plans. When deciding to sign up for part C or a Medicare supplement there can easily be over 10 options available to you. Depending on your circumstances, the option that fits best may vary from that of your friends and family. This makes the question “What is a good insurance to supplement my Medicare?” a little more complex, but something we can get to the bottom of. It will depend on your income, doctors, medications and more. Many individuals retire with a small fixed income. This leads to choosing a lower cost, all-inclusive option like a Medicare Advantage Plan. It is a reasonably popular choice for those eligible for Medicare to be on a Medicare Advantage Plan due to their low cost, rich benefit structure as long as we are able to find a network of doctors that works for you. If you were to ask me, “What’s the biggest myth associated with retirement?”, I’d say it’s that everything is covered once you get to Medicare. Many of us leave a group health plan or private health insurance and expect our coverage to increase automatically once we retire. This can certainly happen, but not without supplementing your Original Medicare coverage. Many Medicare Advantage Plans have a $0 monthly premium throughout the state of California. They also do a great job of adding coverage without eating into the fixed income that many retire on. Plus, with large networks in many of the more populated regions, it’s possible to have all your doctors under one simple network.
You may have heard of Medigap plans as well. They don’t have any network issues and can be used nationwide without hardly any restrictions. For this reason, many who travel often will choose to enroll into a Medicare supplement. What is the best Medicare supplement for traveling? The answer to this depends on if you travel out of country or not. Those who stay within the United States will find they have the same coverage they signed up for everywhere and won’t see a real difference. If you travel out of country, then you will want to choose a plan that covers emergency care for foreign travel. The Medicare supplement plans that cover this are Plan C, D, F, G, M and N. Any of these will allow you to have world-wide emergency coverage. If you have family out of the country that you visit during the holidays, you’ll want to be sure you have some sort of emergency coverage.
Medicare supplement vs. Medicare advantage
So, which is better, Medicare supplement or a Medicare advantage? To be honest, again it depends. While many Medicare advantage plans have a $0 premium, most Medicare supplements can cost well over $80 a month. A Medicare supplement doesn’t include a prescription drug plan either, so you would need to sign up for part D separately and pay another premium for Medicare prescription drug coverage. Due to the monthly costs of the Medicare supplement and drug plan option, less and less of the Medicare eligible population are enrolling into a Medicare supplement plan. After factoring your income, it will depend on how many doctors you see and if they are all local or not. If you’re simply traveling for short periods of time and only wish to have nation-wide urgent and emergency coverage in addition to the world-wide emergency coverage, Medicare Advantage may be an option to consider.
Since we are discussing Medicare supplements, we should mention the F Plan. We get the question all the time, “What is Medicare Part F supplemental insurance?.” There is no Medicare Part F, so it’s not possible to be enrolled in Medicare part F. It’s called plan F or the F plan, and it is one of the options for a Medicare supplement plan. This is the most popular Medicare supplement plan due to its coverage. Hence, many Medicare insurance brokers and health plans market this plan everywhere. With the F plan you pay your monthly premiums, then all of your Medicare copay and coinsurances are covered. You would essentially pay nothing out-of-pocket for any Medicare covered service. This is what makes the plan so attractive. Now, it is the most expensive option in terms of premium with prices starting at around $120 a month at age 65 and go up as you get older.
There are many options for those on Medicare. As you hone in on your research, you may also be curious as to how to change my Medicare plan from one to anther? It’s quite simple. Any one of our local Medicare insurance agents can support you by enrolling you into the plan you choose and ensure it’s processed without any issues.
Medicare has a variety of health insurance options. Whether you just signed up for Medicare, it’s your 65th birthday and your unsure of your options, or maybe you’re already enrolled in Medicare part C or a Medigap, be sure to partner with a local agent. When managing your healthcare, it’s nice to have someone local you can go to instead of someone over the phone only. What can Medicare advisors near me do to help? Below is a list of common questions we can help you navigate through.
Many assume that the name they recognize most is going to be the best choice. This can sometimes be a good place to start but has no relation to better benefits or price. This is because unlike employer plans and individual health insurance plans, Medicare plans are applied for by county. This means that each insurer decides which counties they specifically want to participate in. This generates variety and can increase quality due to a health plan being designed specifically for your area. Due to variety there will often be names that many will never have heard of that could be a popular and high-quality plan in your area. For example, there are companies like Care 1st, Inter Valley, Alignment, Brand New Day and more that many may have never heard of before starting to research their options with Medicare. Yet, each of these names are huge competitors in various counties across the state. For example, Care 1st has been so competitive that Blue Shield of CA purchased them and have now transitioned their name from Care 1st to Blue Shield Promise. Popular and high-quality plans can vary by county, and for this reason, you may want to partner with an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent to figure out if there’s a “Care 1st” in your county.
As stated earlier, it’s going to depend on your finances and where you live among other factors. If you can afford a Medicare Supplement plan and will utilize its perks, then it’s a great option. Even if you can afford a Medicare supplement, you may not see yourself capitalizing on what you’re paying for and end up liking a Medicare advantage plan instead. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a Medicare advantage plan with a large network and great benefits that makes paying the monthly premium for the Medicare supplement plan rather unnecessary. Those who live in different states for extended time periods will often find the Medicare supplement the better option for them due to capability to use nation-wide for all Medicare accepted services. Overall, the biggest factor between the two will be your finances.
Medigap is another name for Medicare supplement. You do not “need” Medigap insurance, but you may find that it is the most suitable option to manage your Medicare coverage based on your specific healthcare and lifestyle needs.
The first misconception people make when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan is to compare benefits first. If it’s not important to see particular doctors and you’re not taking any prescriptions at the moment, then go ahead and compare benefits. Not all doctors accept all Medicare advantage plans in each county, and Medicare Advantage plans have different prescription drug coverage. For this reason, we recommend starting with finding out which plans are accepted by your doctors and then find out which of those plans cover all your medications. People will often choose a plan because of its benefits and neglect to consider what we mentioned above, then have hurdles to climb when they’re not able to see a specialist or are asked to pay out-of-pocket for a medication. So, when choosing a plan follow these steps:
1. Find out which plans all your preferred doctors accept
2. See which of those plans cover all your medications
3. Compare coverages of the remaining plans to fit your needs
This process can be tedious and stressful at times. It helps to partner with an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent to do this leg work for you AND help you understand your options that have been narrowed down, so you can confidently choose a plan that works for you.