Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

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mjdaniel
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Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by mjdaniel » Wed Oct 19, 2016 10:46 am

I am a couple of years away from receiving Medicare. My wife turns 65 next year, so I am assisting her with choosing coverage. Right now we are looking at 2 Medicare Advantage plans, 1 from Aetna and 1 from BCBS Anthem. I have looked at medicare.gov, each provider's website, and a company called OneExchange which my employer (that I retired from 8 years ago) recommended. Both plans are described and priced exactly the same on all sources as I expected. I am asking if it makes any difference where I make the purchase. I am concerned when there is a problem and I need customer support, will it make a difference.

Spirit Rider
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by Spirit Rider » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:41 am

Anyone other than the company is a broker. If you want to flesh out the difference between plans and customer service you might want to use a broker. Sometimes the good ones are reservoirs of useful information.

However, once you have the plan, you are going to be dealing with the company's CSRs. Their usefulness and other information might be good to know. You are not going to get anything other marketing speak from the companies themselves.

This is far more important, especially the quality and availability of their network in your area. Just like one cell phone carrier does not have the best service everywhere, it is likely that some providers have better coverage and/or are a better value in some areas than others.

This is far more important than Medigap plans where price is the most important criteria.

FactualFran
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by FactualFran » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:30 pm

In addition to recommending OneExchange, has your former employer arranged to establish a reimbursement account with OneExchange that you can use if you buy a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Part D plan through OneExchange?

mjdaniel
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by mjdaniel » Wed Oct 19, 2016 12:48 pm

I retired with money that could only be used to purchase healthcare from my former employer. All of that is spent. If I had any left, it could be used thru OneExchange. I still considered using OneExchange for advice and support.

FactualFran
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by FactualFran » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:01 pm

I recently signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan through OneExchange (I will soon become Medicare eligible and reimbursement money from my former employer will be available). In my opinion, One Exchange added another layer of bureaucracy that I could have done without. This is the Bogleheads forum, where many do not look to a broker for advice and support.

itstoomuch
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by itstoomuch » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:18 pm

Go find someone who is already 65 and is on Medicare.

Everyone who is on Medicare will receive annually a Medicare handbook which will have various Plans. The Plans are good for Jan01-Dec 31, thus your spouse who will become eligible in 2017 can see today what will be available in mid 2017.

IIRC spouse will be receiving info on Medicare 3 months before eligibility.
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dm200
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by dm200 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 2:37 pm

There are very large differences in Medicare Advantage (and the similar Medicare Cost) Plans. My wife and I are with the Kaiser Medicare plan in the Washington DC area and are very pleased. In addition to reading the policy and documents, if at all possible talk to those enrolled in the plans as well. Some personal experiences might be better or worse than what the documents seem to say.

I know that in our Kaiser plan, there are many features and experiences that are better (BOTH medically and financially) than you might conclude from the documents.

Some local government jurisdictions have departments that can advise Seniors about Medicare.

dbr
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by dbr » Wed Oct 19, 2016 3:45 pm

FactualFran wrote:I recently signed up for a Medicare Advantage plan through OneExchange (I will soon become Medicare eligible and reimbursement money from my former employer will be available). In my opinion, One Exchange added another layer of bureaucracy that I could have done without. This is the Bogleheads forum, where many do not look to a broker for advice and support.
My company tried hard to lobby people to find Medigap/Advantage plans through their broker. It turns out all you had to do to get the HCRA benefit in this case was check a box saying "I bought my plan elsewhere, put the money in my HCRA." and they did. The lobbying for the broker was completely bogus. The HCRA is not operated by the broker but they will be glad to intermediate the money to someone -- unnecessarily. I don't know what the deal might be somewhere else. I was comfortable contacting plans directly and felt the sales contacts were excellent.

daveatca
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KP for me

Post by daveatca » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:26 pm

Huge Kaiser fan.
I put them to the test with colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Went as well as could be expected. Cost to me was $2500 which I thought reasonable.
YMMV.

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dodecahedron
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Re: KP for me

Post by dodecahedron » Wed Oct 19, 2016 5:57 pm

daveatca wrote:Huge Kaiser fan.
I put them to the test with colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Went as well as could be expected. Cost to me was $2500 which I thought reasonable.
YMMV.
We used to have Kaiser Permanente in this area (Upstate NY) until about twenty years ago. Our family and our docs were happy with coverage and as far as I could tell, other members and their physicians were as well.

But the "Permanente" part of their name became something of a local joke when they just shut down their operations in this area, and more generally in the northeast. According to the NYT, "This area of the country is not ready for that model," and they were just losing too much money here.

However, CDPHP, the local physician-operated HMO that took over some of their operations and assets has a lot of satisfied customers (including me on an ACA Bronze policy.) I am not yet Medicare age (two years to go) and unsure if I will go the Advantage route (as opposed to Medigap), but if I do it will be with them. They score consistently very high in national rankings.

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blueblock
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by blueblock » Wed Oct 19, 2016 7:17 pm

I recently used a local insurance broker for six month's bridge coverage between the end of COBRA (now) and the beginning of Medicare (April). I was impressed by her knowledge, she was good at explaining everything in clear terms, and she set it all up for me to boot.

While I had a referral from a friend for this broker, if you're not sure how to find one, go to Google, and as your search term enter "health insurance broker [your zip code]". Scroll down looking for *local* agencies.

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dm200
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Re: KP for me

Post by dm200 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:44 pm

dodecahedron wrote:
daveatca wrote:Huge Kaiser fan.
I put them to the test with colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Went as well as could be expected. Cost to me was $2500 which I thought reasonable.
YMMV.
We used to have Kaiser Permanente in this area (Upstate NY) until about twenty years ago. Our family and our docs were happy with coverage and as far as I could tell, other members and their physicians were as well.
But the "Permanente" part of their name became something of a local joke when they just shut down their operations in this area, and more generally in the northeast. According to the NYT, "This area of the country is not ready for that model," and they were just losing too much money here.
However, CDPHP, the local physician-operated HMO that took over some of their operations and assets has a lot of satisfied customers (including me on an ACA Bronze policy.) I am not yet Medicare age (two years to go) and unsure if I will go the Advantage route (as opposed to Medigap), but if I do it will be with them. They score consistently very high in national rankings.
Interesting about Kaiser in your area. As the NYT article states, kaiser pulled back in several other markets at that time. I think there was another Kaiser pullback in another state recently as well.

In this area (Washington DC, suburbs in MD and VA, as well as Baltimore MD area), Kaiser seems to be continuing to grow, opening several new centers in the last few years. Kaiser now has specialists on staff for almost all specialties. I think federal government employees are probably very common Kaiser participants. Kaiser advertises a lot during "open season" and some year round. They also advertise the Medicare plan as well.

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LadyGeek
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:49 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (insurance).
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

jmw
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Re: Where to purchase Medicare Advantage Plan

Post by jmw » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:27 pm

Customer support is really the least of your worries about this decision. It's an important decision and I think you're making a mistake choosing an Advantage plan.

My family used to be Kaiser members and we were fine as long as we stayed relatively healthy with fewer than one doctor visit every 2 months. It's lovely to have a McDonald's model where everything is under one roof and delivered quickly and efficiently. What's not to like with Kaiser Senior Advantage?

But Kaiser Senior Advantage (and pretty much all of the other Advantage plans) stink when you get very sick. It's a good way to save money over many years while you are healthy even after 65. But all of those savings will get wiped out in one shot on top of insurers trying to cut corners on your care so you end up worse off than if you chose Original Medicare with a Medigap. You will get socked with high copays and a middleman that is trying to discharge you from the hospital or skilled nursing facility ASAP. The formulary is limited. The docs aren't very good when your illness doesn't fit their criteria. You'll be restricted on your choice of doctors, hospitals, SNF (you will end up with a list of really smelly and crappy facilities), Etc. etc. Many of the posters here don't (yet) suffer from lifelong chronic diseases that are irreversible, so they don't have the perspective from someone that has to visit the doc every 2 weeks at a minimum. Under Original Medicare, you can choose any doctor, nursing home, surgeon, etc as long as that person or organization takes Original Medicare. Once you choose Medicare Advantage, you can't get a Medigap policy (pretty much required with original Medicare) without medical underwriting.

You're making a penny saved pound foolish deal with the devil by choosing Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare/Medigap plan F/G/N. Take the time to look at both Advantage and Original Medicare/Medigap and know what you're signing up for.

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