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The only thing for certain is change



I’m proud to announce that this is my 75th article/column for the Mogollon Rim News since I began in the fall of 2013.  It’s been a wonderful and exciting experience for Kate and me.  We’ve met in person and by phone, many full timers and part timers in what we like to refer to as “God’s Country” on “The Rim”.  We hope the information we’ve provided has been both helpful and useful as we all attempt to piece together the very best medical health insurance program for each of our individual needs.


December 7th ends this year’s Annual Enrollment Period.  All the changes that affect your Advantage plans and your Part D prescription drug plans will commence January 1, 2018.  Your Medicare supplement benefits will not be changing, which is part of your lifetime guarantees, if you pay your premiums on time.  However, we have not yet received any information on any Medicare changes to the deductibles or copayments on these plans.  Neither have we heard what Medicare Part B premium changes may be occurring for 2018.  As soon as these changes are announced, we’ll publish them in the following issue.


Regarding Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage), I’ve heard rumors that the “Donut Hole” or “Coverage Gap” will continue to be reduced until at some point it disappears completely.  This is that period when your drug costs will increase until the time you enter the Catastrophic coverage phase of reduced costs until the end of the year.  It can be very confusing and a very costly period for those of us on expensive prescription drugs.  I hope the rumor is true.  We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.


One of the most asked questions we receive is, “Why should I pay for prescription drug insurance when I take few or no prescription drugs?”  Initially, it makes sense.  “Why indeed?”  The basis for all insurance situations is, “You buy insurance when you don’t need it, so you’ll have it when you do.”  Can you imagine driving a car while being uninsured, having an accident, and then calling an insurance company to purchase a policy to cover that accident?  Under those conditions, there wouldn’t be any insurance companies.  They would have all gone broke.


Prescription drug insurance works basically under this same premise.  Funds have to be put into the “Kitty” to pay for people who currently need them and to be available for people who may need them in the future.  If you don’t follow the guidelines set up by Medicare, you may be subject to lifetime penalties, and they can be considerable.  Refer to your booklet Medicare & You 2018 pages 88, 89, & 90 for all the specifics regarding “Coverage Gaps” and “Part D Late Enrollment Penalties”.


One rumor, that has been confirmed as true, is that the Medicare supplement Plan F will no longer be sold by any insurance company after January 1, 2020 for those Medicare recipients newly turning 65.  Do not despair!  All plan F supplements in force as of December 31, 2019 will be honored as before for the life of the insured if the Premiums are paid on time.  We haven’t been given a reason for this discontinuance, only that it will occur.  I personally own a Plan F, and when Kate turns 65 in May 2018, she plans to purchase a Plan F also.  Having owned one since 2009, I can vouch for it being the most comprehensive plan available.


When the Plan F is no longer available, most agents will probably be recommending Plan G.  The premium for that plan will be a little less, but the Medicare beneficiary will be responsible for the annual Part B deductible.  We have been notified of no other changes.  This is not the first time that a plan has been removed from future sales.  In the past few years, I’ve met several people who still own a Plan J.  It too, was a very comprehensive plan that Medicare removed from the list about ten years ago for reasons that were never shared with us.  The owners love it still, understand the benefits, and wouldn’t even think of changing to any other policy.  I believe that there will be similar reactions down the road to the Plan F.


If you are approaching age 65, I would recommend that you take a close look at Plan F while it’s still available.  If you’re beyond the guaranteed issue age, but your health is good enough that you could still qualify, take a serious look at Plan F.


As usual, if you have any questions, give us a phone call, or send an email.  Quite often, we can answer many questions with a simple phone call.  If you would like to share a question with our readers, just state so in the call or email.  You can remain anonymous if you wish.


We hope you have a happy holiday season and a rich and rewarding 2018.

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Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at info@orionsteeninsurance.com, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.