If you are one of the 1.1 million Arizonans who qualify for Original Medicare, you can choose between an Aetna, New Era, Everest Medicare supplement, and many others. The Arizona Department of Insurance lists dozens of different insurance companies that have been authorized to market their products within the state.
The state’s regulatory insurance body won’t recommend one approved insurance company over another. They do suggest comparing the premiums and financial strength of different companies. These are some highlights of various insurers that you may want to compare:
- Everest: Some high points of an Everest Medicare supplement include a generous household discount and a simple “YES/NO” application. This insurer has a good reputation for offering competitive rates for Plan A, C, F, G, and N in Arizona. A.M. Best has assigned Everest with an A+, or Superior, rating for financial stability and strength.
- Greek Catholic Union: Because of the way that GCU has organized itself through a fraternal benefit organization, it doesn’t have an A.M. Best rating. It does have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
- Aetna: Because it is so large, Aetna offers good membership perks from a nationwide network of providers. Aetna also has a household discount plan. A.M. Best assigned Aetna an A rating.
- Manhattan Life: This old insurance company has been selling different kinds of coverage since before the Civil War. They have a B, or “secure” rating from A.M. Best and an A+ rating from the BBB.
- New Era: Based in Houston, this company has been offering insurance products since the 1920s. They have an A rating from A.M. Best.
- Thrivent: This nonprofit organization has its headquarters in Wisconsin and is geared towards offering insurance to members of faith-based organizations. A.M. Best awarded Thrivent an A++ financial rating.
- GPM-Government Personnel Management: A.M. Best awarded GPM an A+ excellent rating. It has served individuals, families, seniors, and military members for almost a century.
- United American: United American has maintained an A.M. Best rating of A+ for four decades. With a headquarters in Texas, UA was one of the first insurers to focus upon Medicare and the senior market.
Which plan designs are best in Arizona?
Original Medicare will supply you with very broad coverage. At the same time, you will have some gaps in your protection because of deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments. Your Arizona Medicare supplement plan can fill in these gaps to keep medical costs under control no matter what happens.
Besides choosing a company, you also need to drill down to find the supplement plan that works the best for you. As with any health insurance, you need to balance the benefits you will get with the premium. Obviously, Medicare supplements that offer more benefits will generally have higher premiums; however, they may provide you with a good value if you do need expensive hospital services, doctor’s visits, and medical tests.
With that said, this is a quick overview of the choices that satisfy the majority of clients:
Medicare Supplement Plans F and Plan G
For many years, Plan F held a very strong lead as the most popular supplement. It covered everything Medicare allowed a Medicare supplement to cover, but because of this, it also came with relatively higher premiums. It appeared obvious that people who decided to buy a Medicare supplement to help them manage medical costs preferred comprehensive coverage over saving a little money on premiums each month.
In recent years, Plan G has begun to contend for some of Plan F’s business. This is because the two plans are almost identical twins with only two exceptions:
- Plan G did not pay for the Part B Deductible, which is $183 currently. After Medicare recipients pay this deductible, Part B of Original Medicare generally pays 80 percent of covered expenses.
- Plan G also cost less, and very often, the difference in annual premiums was enough to make up for not covering the Part B deductible.
It might be fair to argue that you have no way to know how much the Part B deductible will increase in the future. On the other hand, it looks like Congress may do away with new policies for Plan F and C, the two supplements that covered this deductible, by 2020. Since Plan G is a very good alternative to Plan F, you might just consider signing up for it in 2018, so you don’t have to worry about switching.
Currently, there is also a high deductible version of Plan F. Today, after you pay the first $2,200 for covered services, it works just like regular Plan F. In return, you get much cheaper premiums. In the future, Medicare might introduce a high deductible version of Plan G to replace the one for Plan F.
Note: If you already have Plan F or C before they are eliminated, they should be grandfathered in.
Medicare Plan N offers you a cost-sharing alternative. You have to pay up to a $20 copay for some visits to the doctor’s office or $50 for an ER visit that doesn’t result in a hospital admission. Plan N also doesn’t cover the Medicare Part B deductible or charges in excess of Medicare Assignment amounts. Excess charges can be as much as 15% more in Arizona.
How Important is Covering Medicare Excess Charges?
Unless your doctor accepts Medicare Assignment, doctors in Arizona can charge up to 15 more than Medicare allows. If your supplement doesn’t cover excess charges, you would have to pay that surcharge out of your pocket. For example, say that you need tests that Medicare says should cost $1,000. Doctors could add in an extra $150 if they don’t accept Medicare Assignment.
If you have Original Medicare and have already satisfied the Part B Deductible, you’d be responsible for 20 percent, or $200, plus the extra $150. Plan will cover the 20 percent but not the extra charges. Plan F and G will cover these excess charges, so you don’t have to shop by price for your doctor or absorb the expense. Otherwise, Plan N still offers you a robust plan with lower premiums that you may find suits your needs.