Medicare: How To Find the Right Medigap Policy
Shop smart. The standardized Medigap policies that insurance companies offer must provide the same benefits -- but prices can differ for the same coverage, and different companies respond to insureds differently.
If you decide to buy, complete the application carefully and disclose all requested medical history.
How To Shop Smart For A Medigap Policy
- Medigap policies are sold by insurance agents. There are many agents that specialize in Medigap coverage.
- Review your needs and have an idea of which plan or plans you are interested in before contacting the agent. If your review indicates more than one possible plan, you can discuss the pros and cons of the ones you are considering with the agent.
- Where possible, contact and talk to at least two independent agents who each market at least four or more different insurance companies. An agent who only offers one company's product is going to be more interested in fitting you into his or product than finding the right product for you. Also be aware that while an agent may represent several plans, the agent's remuneration from one plan may be substantially more than from the others, giving the agent an incentive to sell you what the agent wants, not what you need.
- In addition to price and coverage, ask the agents and other people with Medigap policies about the company's reputation for customer service. Your local disease specific non-profit organization may have information on this subject. Also ask in your support group.
- Once you make your decision, the agent will assist you in enrolling.
- You can find agents who specialize in Medigap policies in senior magazines and newspapers, from your state's Medicare Assistance Agency which will lead you to companies that sell the policies you're interested in. To find your local Medicare Assistance Agency, see www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare/Public/Home.asp and follow the prompts to your area code. Search on "Medicare."
- Once you have identified the plan you want, compare the costs of the plans each company offers. Price alone should not be the final determination: also look at the quality of the insurance company. See How To Evaluate Insurance Companies.
Start Shopping Early
Your health condition may disqualify you from obtaining a Medigap policy other than during the open enrollment period which is a one time event -- and it is only six months long. It's important to think through your needs and do your shopping without a rush, so begin looking for your Medigap policy before your Medicare starts.
If you sign up prior to your Medicare eligibility, your Medigap will start at the same time your Medicare starts.
If You Decide To Buy, Complete the Application Carefully
Do not believe an insurance agent who says your medical history on an application is not important. Some companies ask for detailed medical information. If you leave out any of the medical information requested, coverage could be refused for a period of time for any medical condition you neglected to mention. The company also could deny a claim for treatment of an undisclosed condition and/or cancel your policy.