Category: Insurance

Qualities of a Good Insurance Agent

Qualities of a Good Insurance Agent

The Top 6 Qualities of a Good Insurance Agent

What are the qualities of a good insurance agent you should be looking for when you are searching for an agent? Your insurance agent helps you make important decisions to protect you and your family – let’s make sure you have a good one.

The Top 6 Qualities of a Good Insurance Agent

Here are the top six qualities of a good insurance agent:

qualities of a good insurance agent
  1. Educator Over a Seller.
  2. Learner.
  3. Good Listener.
  4. Problem Solver.
  5. Trustworthy.
  6. Authentic & Likable.

Let’s take a look at each one of these qualities and why they are important.

1. Educator Over a Seller

No one wants to be just sold to. You want to be helped, informed and guided. That is why it is so important to pick an insurance agent that is an educator rather than a seller.

One of the reasons I encourage everyone to find an independent insurance agent is that independent agents do not have to push just one insurance company. This goes for Medicare, life insurance, health and even home and auto.

As an example, for those of you that don’t know me, I am an independent agent that specializes in Medicare insurance. When I meet with clients, I spend time helping them understand the two basic ways to set-up their Medicare. Then, I let them make an informed decision that is best for their unique situation. As a licensed representative for many companies I can feel like an educator and not a “salesperson.” This is an important distinction.

2. Learner

The Insurance Industry is constantly changing. Insurance companies roll out new products regularly. In addition, companies create new ways to use these products to best protect yourself and your family. You need an agent that truly enjoys learning about these changes and products so they can keep your financial plan up-to-date.

LTC “Learner” Example

For example, in the Long Term Care (LTC) insurance world, it is good to have an agent that can help you be creative with how to fund long-term care expenses. As the LTC products have changed and premiums have priced people out of the market, you need an agent that likes to learn about using different types of products that can meet LTC needs (like IUL riders).

The more information and insurance education your agent has, the more they can effectively meet your needs.

Medicare “Learner” Example

Again, to use my situation as another example, I sell Medicare and the Medicare plan landscape becoming crowded with options. In this niche, education is more important than ever. However, less agents are dedicating themselves to certify with all the Medicare options.

Medicare Advantage sales takes a lot of education. I had to take roughly 17 different tests on various Medicare Advantage (MA) plans offered in my service area just for 2020. In addition, all Medicare agents that sell MA must retake these tests every year as they are necessary to understand plan changes.

This is a big reason why independent agents that are fully certified in both Medicare Advantage and Medigap are difficult to find, but necessary for making informed decisions. My advice is it is worth it to have an agent that understands both well.

3. Good Listener

Insurance solutions should meet your needs and not the needs of the insurance agent. That is why being a good listener is one of the qualities of a good insurance agent.

You need to feel like your insurance agent has fully understood you, your family and your financial situation. Make sure you have an agent that asks lots of good questions. Moreover, make sure your agent actually listens to your answers.

4. Problem Solver

Creating the best insurance solution for your needs requires active problem solving. No two situations are exactly alike. We have already established that you should have an agent that is up-to-date on the latest products and trends in insurance. Then, you need an agent that can synthesize this information into a solution that meets your unique needs.

You may not realize it, but creativity is a big part of being a good insurance agent. Insurance is certainly used for asset protection, but it can also be a creative tool for retirement funds and estate building.

5. Trustworthy

Honesty and integrity come as a package deal. Insurance agents should have both and demonstrate it actively to earn your trust. Enough said.

6. Authentic & Likable

You must like your insurance agent, and they must also like you back! Otherwise, you will dread working with them, and they will probably feel the same about you.

I know when I leave 95% of my clients, I feel energized and happy from our meeting. Consequently, I know they do too. I am always working to get this number to 100%. I purposefully search out clients I can be myself with. When I am my authentic self, I know I can do my best work for my clients.

Conclusions

In summary, there is a good agent out there for everyone. However, it might take a few attempts to find the one that is right for you. Just be on the look out for agents that are: educators, learners, listeners, and problem solvers. In addition, they should be trustworthy and authentic, but above all, you should like them!

Please follow us:
error
Medicare For All Explained

Medicare For All Explained

Medicare For All Explained

The Presidential Debates have started, and once again, the rising costs of health care is a hot topic. You will hear people (like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren among others) talking about “Medicare for All,” “Universal Medicare” and “Universal Health Insurance.” What exactly are they talking about? Let’s dive in, with Medicare for all explained.

What is Medicare?

We need to start off with some definitions. First, what is Medicare? It is the U.S. national health care system in place to cover the health care citizens over the age of 65 and those that are disabled. Hop on over to our “What is Medicare” post to learn the basics of our current system.

So, What Exactly is “Medicare for All”?

Medicare for All is the expansion of our current national Medicare system to include all citizens in the United States. According to PBS, 44 million Americans are uninsured, and 38 million more Americans are under-insured. Meaning, their insurance is not adequate enough to meet their heath care needs. Medicare for all aims to solve this problem by nationalizing health care and offering it to everyone.

Why is it a problem to have under insured or non-insured Americans?

According to PBS, some of the reasons it is problematic to have so many uninsured Americans is

  • People who forego preventative care cost the system more later when they get sick.
  • People who don’t visit the doctor when they first need to cost the system more later when their illness gets worse.
  • Mounting debt for consumers and non-payment of care to hospitals are just two examples of how unpaid Medical bills are a drain on our economy. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the in U.S. is medical debt.
  • Moreover, everyone else suffers when insurance premiums go up because of this cycle.

The Pros and Cons of “Medicare For All” Explained

Political opinions often weigh heavily on health care topics. For this discussion, try to think of health are as non-political and consider both the pros and cons of national health care.

The Positive Side

Medicare For All explained
  • There is a lot of bloat in our current health care system. Private companies naturally try to make a profit, but the medical industries are known for inflated administrative costs and high executive pay/bonuses. A national system would divert this money away from compensation and into research and development or into lowering consumer costs.
  • I know we are staying apolitical, but Bernie Sanders (one of the biggest proponents for Medicare for All) does a good job of laying out our next point: we all have the right to good care. Sanders site says, We would be “joining every other major country on Earth and guaranteeing health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.” The United States ranks far behind other countries in regards to health care, and this could be our chance to catch-up.
  • We could lower the cost of prescription drugs if the U.S. was the biggest payer and negotiator. Right now, the U.S. pays way more than other developed countries for certain drugs because of our privatized system. If you have not read about the sad cases related to inflated costs for insulin, that is a good example to start with.

The Negative Side

  • On the flip side, one argument against Medicare for All, is that national systems beneficiaries will use medical services more than they need to or should. The government has a “weaker incentive” than private companies to limit overuse since they are not profit driven.
  • The government is not as good at detecting and deterring fraud as private companies. This is because private companies spend more money in administrative costs to handle fraud, and the current Medicare program does not have a big enough budget for this.
  • Payments to providers would be less. Some of this would be countered by less admin costs. However, a lot of doctors and providers might be dissuaded from offering their services. We certainly can’t afford to loose good practitioners.

Going Forward

It doesn’t seem like a national health care system is in our near future. Even electing a pro “Medicare for All” candidate, it proponents would still have an uphill battle in congress. What is clear is that the current system is very costly and often ineffective in providing the “best” care. Tackling the problem from many different angles including prevention is an intermediary step we can at least continue with.

What are your thoughts on Medicare for all and the current state of our health care system? If you are a beneficiary of our current Medicare program, do you think it can be translated on a national scale?

Please follow us:
error
How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

How Much Does Medicare Cost?

Medicare costs can be different person to person, depending on which type of plan you choose. After you have a basic understanding of Medicare and it’s basic components, you will want to know how much does Medicare cost? The answer is, it depends on how you structure it. Let’s break down what you could be paying.

Medicare Costs Broken Down & Made Simple

When you set up your Medicare, you will decide if:

Your costs will also be different if you get help in any way from any state or federal programs.

How Much Original Medicare Costs

  • Medicare Part A – For most people, there is not a cost or premium you pay for Part A. Your Part A is premium free if you worked in the US and paid Medicare taxes for at least 30 quarters. (You will pay between $240 – $437 a month depending on your work history for Part A if you do not meet the premium free requirements).
    • There is also a $1,364 yearly deductible for Part A services and coinsurance tiers on hospital stays.
  • Medicare Part B – You will pay a premium for Part B. In 2019, the standard premium is $135.50 per month. If you make more than $85,000 a year in retirement, you will pay more on an income dependent scale.
    • There is also a $185 Part B deductible and a 20% coinsurance (co-pay) for most approved services.
    • Late penalties may also apply to Part B (and less commonly, Part A) if you do not sign-up when you are first eligible.

How Much Prescription Drug Costs

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage needs to be obtained from a private insurance company. Each company will price their service differently and you can shop for the best plan and price for you. In addition, you will pay more for your Part D coverage, on a sliding scale, if you make more than $85,000 a year while on Medicare.

Other costs to consider with your Part D coverage are co-pays and coinsurance, in addition to deductibles.

There are also late enrollment penalties associated with not signing up for Part D coverage when you are first eligible if you do not have “credible coverage.”

How Much Medicare Supplements or Medicare Advantage Plans Cost

On top of your Original Medicare, you will need to make a decision to either participate in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or to consider having a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) Plan. If you need help deciding on which one is best for your needs, please read our article on Medicare Advantage Vs. Medicare Supplements.

  • Medicare Supplement Plan Costs – Medicare Supplements will each have a different cost depending on the Letter Plan you choose and the company you go with. The government decides what benefits are offered by each letter plan. Then, each private insurance company decides what price they can offer for each plan in each market. It is a good idea to compare multiple plans by multiple carriers (insurance companies) in your area before choosing a plan. An independent insurance agent will be able to help you do this.
  • Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) Costs – Part C, or Medicare Advantage Plans are also offered by private insurance companies and stand in place of Original Medicare. In addition, they often include Part D Prescription Drug Coverage. Some of these plans have low or zero premium plan options. A few even cover Part B premiums. All of them are required to have max out of pocket expenditures and deductibles. It is a good idea to talk to an independent insurance agent on MAPD plans in your area to help you choose your best option.

Medicare Costs Summary

In summary, Medicare will cost you something, unless you are on full benefits from Medicaid. Moreover, you have already been paying into the Medicare system during your working career with Medicare taxes. Common set-up for Medicare beneficiaries include:

  • Having Original Medicare, Part A Premium Free, Part B Premium at $135.50 /month and a stand alone Part D Premium to pay. Then, adding on a Supplement Plan to cover the expenses Original Medicare does not pay.
  • Or having a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan that includes a drug plan with a premium to pay (sometimes a $0 premium). Most commonly, you will still pay your Part B premium with Medicare Advantage.

Get More Help Understanding How Much Medicare will Cost You

One good resource for learning more about the costs of Medicare is the Medicare and You Book published by the government every year. It is a large book, so please star with our Medicare and You User’s Guide to learn what it offers and to get a copy if you need one.

In addition, finding the best Medicare options for your budget can be a lot to take on, but hopefully this breakdown is helpful. I strongly suggest talking to a professional to help you in setting up your Medicare plan. As an independent agent myself, I suggest using an independent agent. They are not tied to one company, so they work for you, not one carrier and can help you in considering many different carriers and plans.

Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert

As always, if you live in Nebraska or Iowa, please give me a call, and I can help you out either in person or over the phone.

Carly Cummings, NE/IA Licensed Independent Insurance Agent for Life and Health.
how much does medicare cost?
Please follow us:
error
Using an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent

Using an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent

Should I Use an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent?

5 reasons to use an independent medicare insurance agent. Author is a Nebraska based independent insurance agent.

When it comes to making decisions on and signing up for Medicare health care planning, you will have a few paths to consider. First, you could take the path of figuring everything thing out on your own and signing-up independently. Your second option is to talk to a captive agent that works for one insurance company. Finally, you can use an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent to help you make Medicare decisions.

FULL DISCLOSURE: If you have read up on your fearless author, you will know that I am an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent. Therefore, you can rightly assume that I am for using an independent agent or broker for Medicare help. However, I know there are different ways to tackle any one solution, so use this information to move you forward in the direction you for which you are most comfortable.

The Top Five Reasons to Work with an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent

1. Independent Agents Can Compare Companies

I decided on a career as an independent agent expressly because I enjoy helping people. Moreover, I feel proud to introduce seniors to our nation’s national health care system and the private insurance companies that administer both MA plans and supplements.

To compare, let’s define a captive insurance agent as an agent that works for just one insurance company. That agent can sign you up only for the plans that are offered by their employer. If one of their plans do not fit your needs, you will need to find another agent to help you. On the other hand, using an independent insurance agent for Medicare allows you to compare the multiple carriers they represent and the various plans they offer.

As an example, let’s say you are comparing Medicare Supplement Plans available in your area. Your independent agent might be contracted to sell multiple carriers and can look up the prices and find the best rate for you. Remember that Medigap (supplement) letter plan benefits are set by the government and often the only main difference will be price. In this instance, the more choices, the merrier (for your wallet)!

2. You Do Not Pay Medicare Insurance Agents

My clients do not pay me, and the government does not pay me. As an independent agent, I get paid by private insurance carriers when I place business with them. As mentioned in reason one, since I do not belong to any one carrier, I can help my clients look at many different options available to them.

An agent’s goal is to help you make the right decision for your needs without thinking about making money. We do need to make a living, but there are rules set with compensation that all the insurance companies comply with. As a result, getting paid with one carrier versus another is not going to make a big difference to an independent agent that has her client’s best interest in mind.

3. Your Independent Agent Can Help You Communicate with Insurance Carriers

This is a big reason to work with an independent agent that often gets overlooked. Your agent can help you work with your chosen insurance (carrier) company. If you sign-up with a carrier directly, you will have to work with them directly. This is fine, but let’s say you have a question or have a dispute. Your insurance agent can “go to bat” for you in helping you get your question answered or problem solved. Perhaps even faster than you could do it yourself.

Your agent will also stay on top of news and changes coming from your carrier and can alert you to anything you need to know or actions you need to take. This includes helping you to stay up on Medicare Part D plans and changes.

4. You Can Ask Your Agent Questions

Yes, yes you can. Call, email, text your insurance agent and they are there to help with your health insurance needs. Often times your agent will also be an expert in other kinds of insurance such as life, dental/vision/hearing, annuities, etc.

5. Your Agent Can Shop Rates/Plans for You in the Future

Much like car insurance these days, your premium rates might change over time, and you might have more options that become available in your area.

For supplement insurance, it is a good idea to shop your policy every once and a while to make sure you are not paying to much. Medical Underwriting becomes necessary for supplement switching when you are not in a guaranteed time of eligibility. As a result, you will want to work your agent hard while you are perhaps younger and hopefully healthier to keep on top of your supplement rates.

As for Medicare Advantage Plans, your agent can help you keep on top of the market to help you in deciding if you ever need to switch plans or companies.

Your Other Options

There may be reasons that you choose to not use an independent agent. You may end up using a captive agent, or you may end up doing everything by yourself, and this is just fine. If you want to go the solo route, or even just to get an overview of the market in your area, I suggest you visit the Medicare Government Website Plan Overview Page. Visiting this page before you visit with an agent is also a good idea so you can ask knowledgeable questions.

Conclusions

In conclusion, you might appreciate using an Independent Medicare Insurance Agent if you…

  • Like to compare rates/plans
  • Enjoy complimentary help
  • Appreciate a company lesion
  • Have occasional health care plan questions
  • Like to keep up-to-date on market changes
Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert, Independent Medicare Insurance Agent
Medicare Expert ,Carly Cummings

If you are living “The Good Life” in my home state of Nebraska, I would ask that you give me a shot at being your Nebraska Independent Medicare Agent. Click here for my contact info.

If you are in any of our other fine 49 states, you can always reach out to ask me questions, but I can’t represent any companies or plans to you, but I encourage you to find an agent in your area. Word of mouth is always a good way to find an agent, so start by asking your friends and family who they use. Alternatively, you can always Google, “independent Medicare insurance agents near me.”

Please follow us:
error
What is AEP?

What is AEP?

What is AEP? Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period

Do you love a good acronym? How about a very large amount of them? The health and insurance industries are nothing if not full of confusing acronyms. Moreover, “industry people” will just assume you know them all. AEP is no exception, so let’s discuss what actually is the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period.

The Definition of AEP

Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

AEP stands for Annual Enrollment Period. It is defines the period of time each year eligible seniors can enroll in both Medicare Advantage Insurance Plans (Part C) and Prescription Drug Plans (Part D). In addition, you will not be required to go through medical underwriting to join these plans. (ESRD is an exception.)

Outside of a SEP (Special Enrollment Period) or your IEP (Initial Enrollment Period), this is the only time that you can join a Part D or Part C plan. Yes, I know, more acronyms!

In addition, AEP is one of the two times you can switch plans, if you are already in one. (The US government just added the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. This is a second period of time – Jan. 1 – March 31 – where you can switch plans once if you are already in a plan. )

When is AEP?

The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is October 15th – December 7th. The changes you make during this period of time will take place for the following year on January 1st.

Possible Changes During the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Does AEP apply to Medigap (Medicare Supplement) Plans?

No, AEP does not apply to Medigap (supplements). You can switch a supplement plan at any time. However, you will be subject to medical underwriting. This means that you are not guaranteed to be accepted into the Medigap plan.

How do I Switch Plans / Join a Plan During AEP?

You can start researching and learning about the plans available to you the next year, starting October 1st. However, you will not be able to complete an enrollment application until October 15th.

When switching/joining a MA/MAPD or Drug Plan, I highly suggest using an independent insurance agent. There are many considerations when choosing a plan, and she/he will help you in making sure you pick the right plan for you. (If you live in Nebraska, please give me a email/call/text, and I will be happy to help.)

That said, you can also research plans and see their ratings at https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

Please follow us:
error
What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)? Do I Need One?

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)? That is a question we hear often as IUL’s have been increasing in popularity. I am sure we will hear it even more as they are expected to continue to rise this year.

They have become popular in our low interest bond market as an alternate way to grow savings fund conservatively for both retirement purposes and legacy purposes. However, not everyone needs an IUL. Let’s take a deeper look into what are IULs and who might need/want one.

What is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL)?

An Indexed Universal Life (IUL) Insurance Policy offers insurance with a cash value in addition to a tax-free death benefit. Both the cash value and the death benefit are useful and attractive tax advantaged ways to provide for your family. The cash value can provide you tax advantaged income in retirement, and the death benefit can provide tax advantaged cash for your family when you die.

Premiums

IULs are structured so that premium payments cover not just the cost of insurance, but also the extra money needed to create and maintain the cash value of the policy. Each month the policy cash value grows with excess cash payments and interest. However, the policy is also debited by the cost of insurance and policy charges/fees.

Interest

The interest growth is tied to a financial index (like the S&P 500, Russell 2000, Nasdaq 100 and the Dow Jones) and usually with a minimum growth rate and a maximum (capped) interest rate. This allows participants to take advantage of market growth without having the threat of losing money. The tradeoff for this security is the growth cap. For instance, you might have a minimum interest of 2% and a cap at 12%. If the market loses money, you don’t. If the market grows 20% or 30%, you only see 12%.

The Flexibility of IUL

One of the main reasons, IULs are popular is their flexibility.

  • Premium Flexibility – The premiums are flexible each month. There is usually a minimum and maximum you can feed into the policy each month. Staying within your contracted terms, this allows you to let the accumulated cash value help in paying the cost of insurance if you miss a month’s premium. However, the policy will lapse if there is not enough cash value to cover the cost of insurance and fees. (This is true with most policies, unless you have a no lapse guarantee rider.)
  • Death Benefit Flexibility – You have the ability to increase or decrease your death benefit (subject to underwriting).

Do You Need Universal Life Insurance (IUL)?

Here are some reasons you might need an IUL.

  • First, if you are looking for another avenue to bolster tax advantaged (tax-free) cash flow in retirement.
  • Second, if you need to leave money after you die for final expenses, income replacement, debts, or estate taxes.
  • Finally, if you need an alternative to long-term care insurance.

Let’s break each of these down.

IULs for Retirement Planning

Sometimes you need another revenue stream in retirement. You probably have your taxable accounts (IRAs, Pensions, Social Security, Investments) to draw from as one stream. In addition, you might have tax free accounts such as a Roth IRA (or Social Security if you keep your tax threshold low enough), but often times you need another vehicle to in this tax advantaged category.

This is where an IUL’s cash value comes in. You can borrow against this amount in retirement and the loan is considered a tax free event. This is an avenue is not just for the super wealthy, but if you are looking for a place to grow a lot of money conservatively, this is a good place. It is also a good way to manage your tax exposure in retirement. Are you interested in keeping your taxes as low as possible in retirement? I suggest reading the book, The Power of Zero by David Mcknight to learn more.

IULs for Survivor’s Benefits

These are the traditional reasons for taking out life insurance, and they all stand-up in an IUL. You can structure your policy so that your beneficiaries will receive a lump sum of cash that is not taxed by the federal government. You will need to plan to see how much of a death benefit you will need to leave to help your family in paying off your expenses (funeral, medical) and your debts. In addition, your beneficiary(ies) might need to replace your income after you pass or pay off big ticket items to maintain their lifestyle. Moreover, the death benefit can offer money to help pay estate taxes.

IULs for Long-Term Care Planning

What is an IUL

Long Term Care Riders are a newer benefit of IUL policies. However, only some carriers offer them. Long Term Care Insurance can be very expensive… very, very expensive. Wrapping up the “cost” of insurance in an upfront IUL rider is one way to make it less painful. With an LTC rider, qualified long-term care expenses are paid using the death benefit before death. The insurance company pays what is left to your beneficiaries as a death benefit when you pass. Remember, Medicare doesn’t cover Long Term Care.

Action Steps

Now that you know what is Indexed Universal Life Insurance (IUL) Policy, here is what you can do next:

  • If you have decided that you want an IUL or want more information on one, you should talk to a licensed insurance agent. IUL’s are complicated. In addition, each company structures them differently. This is not a product you can just “click to buy!.”
  • If you have read through this article and thought, “not me” or “not now,” then I would encourage you to consider other alternatives to solve your planning problems.
    • Investing: If you need a place to access cash that is not taxable in retirement, make sure you are maxing out your Roth IRA first.
    • Insurance: If you need life insurance, but just not that much, check out final expense policies, or if you are younger, term life.
Please follow us:
error
Life Insurance in Retirement?

Life Insurance in Retirement?

Do I need life insurance in retirement?

Personal Finance and Insurance for Retirement

In retirement, you need a plan that will keep you healthy and happy for many years, but what happens when those years run out? Well, you need a plan for that too. Life insurance in retirement is one solution.

We all will end up in different financial places in retirement, and our cash flow and savings will dictate how our “final expenses” play out after we pass. Not everyone needs life insurance in retirement, but even if you don’t “need” it, you still may want it.

Reasons for life insurance in retirement and recommendations

Let’s break down some of the reasons for having life insurance in both the need and want categories.

1. No Savings

You may need life insurance if your saving plan didn’t quite pan out like you thought it would. According to a study done by Northwestern Mutual, 1 in 3 Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement. The average funeral costs between $7,000 and $9,000, and many people have large medical bills from their last days, so you can see how that math does not add up.

You might have Social Security coming in monthly or even a pension. However, you typically need that money for retirement living expenses. Unless you think you can save a little of that money each month in retirement, life insurance is a good idea. (Be honest with yourself. If you could not save it before retirement, you probably will not save it now.)

Life Insurance Recommendations

Your options will depend on your cash flow situation. First, you need to decide how much insurance you need. Second, you will need to see what you can afford to pay each a month in premium.

Final Expense – Term life and whole life insurance is usually too expensive when you are older, and your social security death payment is only $255. Final Expense Insurance will give you a smaller face value ($10,000 to $20,000 is very common) but it is priced accordingly. I recommend getting this insurance sooner rather than later, as the premiums will go up every year you get older.

Life Insurance for your final expenses has a bonus when it comes to cash flow – it is paid to the beneficiary directly and is not subject to federal income tax which can save hundreds/thousands. Moreover, because it does not have to go through probate delays, your family gets the money faster. Here is one last benefit. You can assign funds from the life insurance to be paid directly to your funeral home. This little convenience can be a big deal to your loved ones.

2. Market Volatility Concerns

Another type of retiree may want life insurance because they are concerned about their savings being affected by market losses. Maybe you are like “most Americans” who have an average of $84,821 saved for retirement. However, $85k well below what experts consider enough for living expenses. Think of what one bad market year could do to your nest egg.

Even if you had a couple million in retirement, there are reasons for life insurance in relation to market losses. It just depends on how much you are intending to leave behind and for what reasons.

Example

For example, one spouse dies right after a large market crash (hopefully unrelated). The crash leaves the other spouse with half their portfolio assets and the same amount of living costs. The surviving spouse can use the life insurance money to fill in the holes from the lost income and catch up in the market.

You could use this money to pay off a mortgage. Similarly, you could use it to handle any issues with the estate. In addition, it is always good to know that your loved ones will have cash to bury you, no matter what the market conditions.

Life Insurance Recommendations

  1. IUL – For those that have cash to pay premiums and market assets to protect, I recommend you talk to a licensed agent about an IUL – Indexed Universal Life Insurance. These policies offer flexibility for your particular phase in life. However, they are complex, so please talk to a professional about your options.
  2. Final Expense – For those that are mostly concerned about final expense costs (i.e. funeral, medical bills, credit card/loan balances, etc.), a small final expense policy might be your best bet.

3. Long-Term Care Considerations

As an alternative to Long Term Care Insurance, some retirees consider Life Insurance Policies that have LTC riders or a Chronic Illness Rider. For example, an insurance carrier might offer a product (like an IUL policy) with an option to purchase up-front a rider that will cover long term care events. You can pay qualified long-term care expenses with the death benefit, naturally, before death. Then, when you pass, the insurance company pays what is left to your beneficiaries

Life Insurance in Retirement Summary

I would recommend some form of life insurance to retirees.

  • If you can afford to be responsible for your final expenses, do it. Your family will appreciate it.
  • If you can afford to make sure your spouse can continue to enjoy retirement when you are gone, hop to it.
  • If you are looking for an alternative to Long Term Care Insurance, call an agent and learn your options. Medical expenses are not getting cheaper. In addition, Medicare does not cover these.

My Personal Experience

I’ll leave you with my own family’s relevant story. Last year, when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away, his Final Expense policy saved everyone time and from stress. This left my mother-in-law well taken care of financially, but a lot of her assets were not in cash at the moment.

It was a great relief for all of us not to have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get the bills all taken care of. The policy paid money directly to the funeral home and then sent my mother-in-law the rest in a check. All of that without a tax event. It made me grateful to have a family that planned for each other and made the last year a little less stressful for all.

Please follow us:
error
Medicare FAQ’s

Medicare FAQ’s

The Most Frequently Asked Medicare Questions & Answers

Once you are familiar with the basics of Medicare, these are the Medicare questions we hear the most often that you might have too.

If you are starting from the beginning and do not have a basic understanding of Medicare, we recommend checking out our pages that detail out the basics on:

Can I have both Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement?

No, you have one or the other. Not both, they do not work together and it is illegal for anyone to sell you both.

What are the Medicare Supplement Plan Changes for 2020?

Starting in 2020, the government has stated the no one newly aging into Medicare will be able to buy a supplement that includes coverage of the Part B.

In 2019, this deductible was $185. The only difference between two of the most popular Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans – Plan F and Plan G – is the inclusion or exclusion of the Part B Deductible.

Insurance companies often offer Plan G’s at less expensive prices than their Plan F’s. Even after adding back in the Part B deductible, and for that reason, they are often a good choice.

In addition, if you already have a Plan F, it is a good idea to see if you could save money by switching to a Plan G. However, know that you will have to pass medical underwriting to switch your plan.

What is Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)?

I wrote a whole article to answer this question for you – click here to read it.

Where Should I go for Government Medicare Information?

  • In addition, the government publishes a Guidebook to every year called Medicare and You. You can find our review and User’s Manual to this 120-page book here: Medicare and You 2020.

Who should I talk to if I have more Medicare Questions or if I want Medigap or Medicare Advantage?

You can compare Supplement and MA plans online, but I suggest you talk to a professional, independent insurance broker. They can help you compare plans. Moreover, it won’t cost you any more money to use a professional. Both Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans can be overwhelming when you are trying to pick one, especially if there are many offered in your area.

Remember, independent agents work for you (not the carriers). In addition, having an actual person to help you in communicating to insurance carriers and keeping you updated each year is very valuable. This is something you don’t get if you sign-up directly with a company online.

Carly Cummings, Medicare and Medigap Expert
Medicare Expert -Carly Cummings

If you are in the states of Nebraska or Iowa and you are looking for an agent to help you in any area of Medicare, Health or Life Insurance, please get in touch with me here.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Medicare Questions - Medicare Life Health Pin
Please follow us:
error
Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Part D Prescription Drug Plans

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan Information

Part D of Medicare covers Prescription Drugs. There are different Part D Prescription Drug Plans available. When you choose a plan you will find various costs and coverage. However, the government establishes a “standard level of coverage” that each plan must meet.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

Each plan has a formulary – a list of prescription drugs – they cover. In addition, they have a tier system that ranks how much you will pay for each drug. For example, a generic drug for a specific condition might be in a lower price tier than a brand name of the same drug. You can learn more about Part D drug coverage at Medicare.gov.

Where Do I Get Part D Coverage?

You can have Part D Prescription Drug Plans by themselves (with Original Medicare Part A and Part B, but with or without a supplement) or as a part of your Medicare Advantage Plan.

What do Part D Prescription Drug Plans Cost?

Each plan will have a monthly premium (this is included in your plan premium if you have a MAPD plan). In addition, plans will also have yearly deductibles, co-payments, and costs in what is called the coverage gap. Plans will often try to help you try to save money on your drugs by offering generic options, pharmacy networks, and sometimes mail order programs.

What is the Coverage Gap (aka Donut Hole) in Part D?

In most drug plan there is a limit on what the plan will cover. In 2019, this limit was $3,820. However, once you hit $5,100 in out-of-pocket expenses in a year, you enter Catastrophic Coverage and your costs go back down to paying only small co-payments for covered drugs.

Fortunately, this “hole” in the middle of coverage has been closing-up since 2010, and by 2020, it is basically the same as initial coverage until you enter the catastrophic zone. In 2019, you pay 25% of the plan cost for covered brand name drugs and 37% of the plan cost for generics. To learn more about how these costs apply to your total for entering catastrophic, visit this page.

Are Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans Necessary?

Part D coverage is technically optional coverage. However, if you do not enroll in a plan right when you are eligible (and you don’t have any other coverage in place the government would consider creditable drug coverage), you will face fines later when signing up. Basically, if you think you will ever need drug coverage, you probably should take on a plan immediately. Penalties are calculated based on how long you are without coverage and last as long as you have Part D coverage.

How and When can I get or switch a Part D Prescription Drug Plan?

If you have both Medicare Part A and Part B, you are eligible to enroll in a Part D Prescription Drug Plan. We are always advocates of you speaking with a licensed professional before you purchase a plan or switch plans. You can review plan options online, but going over your medications and concerns with a licensed agent may save you from trouble down the road.

Your IEP, Initial Enrollment Period, for Part D is the same 7 month period when you can enroll for Medicare. This starts 3 months before you turn 65, your birthday month, and the 3 months after. Your coverage begins the first day of the month you turn 65. However, you must sign-up in time for that to happen.

Much like an MA/MAPD Plan, switching Part D plans can occur during a Special Enrollment Period. (For example, if you are moving out of a plan’s territory.) Secondly, you can sign-up each year during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). AEP happens yearly from October 15th to December 7th.

Other Related Topics

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans
Please follow us:
error
Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement (Medigap): What Medicare Plan is Best for Me?

I am a firm believer that there is a good Medicare health plan out there for everyone. Moreover, there might even be more than one good choice out there for your situation. If there is more than one good choice available to you, you might be weighing your options right now – Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement.

First, Let’s review your Medicare options:

Original Medicare (no supplement)

Certainly, stand-alone Medicare coverage is an option. You would still want to get Part D Prescription coverage. (There are penalties down the road if you do not get Part D or have credible coverage already and then want to get it later.) However, you would then be left paying your deductibles and 20% coinsurance out-of-pocket.

For example, with ONLY Original Medicare and NO supplement or MA plan, if you ended up having a major health event like a surgery, the 20% left that medicare doesn’t pay could still be thousands of dollars.

You would also have to go through medical underwriting with a private insurance carrier if you later want a supplement and you have missed your Guaranteed Issue time frame. You can always join a MA plan later, but only during a special enrollment period or during the Annual Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7).

Original Medicare with a Supplement

With this option, you keep Original Medicare and add on a Supplement (Medigap) Policy with a private insurance company to help you in paying the pieces that Medicare does not. These costs can become large if you have a big medical event or a chronic illness. In this instance, a Supplement would protect you from “losing the shirt off your back”! You would also have a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan (or a plan that is considered “credible coverage”).

Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD)

Finally, with a MA/MAPD plan you would replace Original Medicare with a bundled plan offered by a private insurance company. These often include a Prescription Drug Plan. (These are called MAPD plans, which are most the common plans). You still “have Medicare” with these plans. However, they are run by private companies who put together networks of providers and health facilities.

One question we hear a lot is, “can I have both Medicare Advantage and a Medicare Supplement?” No, you have one or the other. Not both, they do not work together and it is illegal for anyone to sell you both.

What are the Differences Between having a Supplement (Medigap) and having Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD)?

Now, let’s do a breakdown of Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare Supplements. First, let’s look at the difference in care and the differences in cost. We are assuming you either have Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with a Supplement (aka Medigap Plans).

Medicare w/Medigap Medicare Advantage
Care OptionsYou can go to any doctor that accepts Medicare already. Specialist referrals are not needed.You typically must visit doctors that are in the plan’s network if you do not want to pay extra. Specialist visits sometimes need a referral, depending on your plan. Click here to read more about plan structures (HMO, PPO, etc.)
ExtrasNASome plans include extra benefits such as hearing, dental, vision and fitness/wellness programs.
Monthly
Costs
Medicare Part A – usually premium free
Part B – Monthly Premium (based on income level)
Part D – Monthly Prescription Premium
Supplement – Premium dependent on which company & plan letter you choose
MAPD plans with Drug Coverage Included pays a monthly premium to the insurance company for all services. Some plans include the Part B Premium and some plans do not. Some plans have a $0 monthly premium option.
Out of Pocket CostsCosts can be very minimal depending on that Medigap plan you choose. There are high deductible options, and starting in 2020, the Part B deductible will have to be paid by everyone who is just aging into Medicare. Some plans have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare and all have a yearly limit on out-of-pocket expenses that are covered by Medicare.
Domestic TravelEmergency and urgent care are always covered in the US. You can use any doctor that takes Medicare in the US for routine visits. If you spend long periods of time traveling and need to see a doctor for routine visits whole out of town, this might be your best option. Emergency and urgent care are always covered in the US. You will have to use doctors in network for routine visits for them to be covered. Some insurance companies have large networks that can span several states, so make sure to inquire about how large the network is before you rule out a MA plan if you travel a lot.
Foreign TravelSome supplement plans cover part of the emergency medical fees you may use in other countries. Plans C, D, F, G, M & N have 80% foreign travel exchange limits. Plans do not typically have any over seas coverage.

Making Your Choice between Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement

Now that you understand the basics of Medicare Advantage Plans and Original Medicare plus a Medigap (Supplement) Plan and know the significant differences between the two, it’s decision time.

First, I always recommend speaking with a licensed, independent agent that can help you in assessing all the various plan types available in your area. Every county has different options for MA/MAPD plans, and insurance carriers have different prices on the supplement plans you may be considering.

Second, it’s good to have an idea of what is important to you. You should be thinking specifically in regards to money and lifestyle when choosing a path.

Consider these questions when choosing between Medigap and MA Plans:

Do you plan on living in another place for a significant period of time during the year?

If you are a “snowbird” or are planning a longer vacation where a routine doctor visit may be necessary when away from your primary residence, then a supplement may be your best choice. Remember though, emergency / urgent care visits are covered with both types of plans.

However, if your travel happens to be international, Both Original Medicare and MA plans do not cover foreign travel, but some supplement plans (plans C, D, F, G, M & N) have 80% foreign travel exchange limits that will help off-set some costs.

What is (or will be) your cash flow situation in retirement?

Some retirees have pensions, social security and other payments (like annuities) that come to them automatically each month. Other retirees have less of these automatic infusions or smaller required distributions and prefer to leave as much of their cash in investments as possible. Finally, some retirees are on a smaller, fixed income. This might require them to consider cash flow very carefully.

In each situation, you will need to review how you are paying for your health services, as each plan offers different payment options.

Cash Flow with a Supplement:

With a supplement, you will have a set amount of money (that could be a larger sum than an MA plan) come out of your bank (and/or S.S./R.R. check) each month. This can add up when you consider it includes Part B premiums, Part D Prescription premiums, and your supplement premiums. However, if you chose a plan that covers everything Original Medicare leaves out, then you would not pay any other out-of-pocket fees for Medicare covered services.

Cash Flow with a MA/MAPD Plan:

With a Medicare Advantage plan, you will most likely have a smaller amount of money coming out of your wallet each month. You will most likely have an MAPD plan that includes your drug plan, as stand alone MA plans are becoming much more rare, and some plans even include Part B premiums. So, with a MAPD plan, you would be paying a MA premium and maybe your Part B premium each month. Moreover, there are sometimes zero dollar per month ($0/month) premium MA plans available. The costs then to consider and maybe budget for with MA plans is if there are any co-pays, co-insurances and deductibles with the plans. Each plan will be set-up differently, and each plan will also have a max yearly out-of-pocket limit.

Just like in any kind of insurance, Medicare plans are set-up to allow you to choose how much out-of-pocket expenses you incur versus monthly premiums you pay.

Looking at your budget and then talking through your options with a licensed agent will allow you to make the best choice for your situation.

How interested are you in extra benefits being included?

Finally, one more consideration is the other elements that round out your health insurance plan, such as dental, vision, hearing, etc. If you have a supplement plan, you will need to decide if you need these services, and if you do, are you wanting to take on insurance plans for them. You might decide to add on a stand-alone, or a plan that includes any or all of these common services (dental, vision, hearing).

Often times, Medicare Advantage plans will include these services as a part of their plan as an additional benefit which might save you money if you were planning on getting a stand alone plan or paying cash for these services.

Moreover, many MA plans will offer fitness or wellness services that are included at no additional cost. Sometimes this means you will not have to pay for a separate gym membership. Silver Sneakers is one example of a national program that is used by many MA plans to provide fitness and wellness services.

The Next Steps for Choosing Your Medicare Plan

As you can see, developing your Medicare Health Insurance Plan can be very involved, but I am confident you can do it! Having a professional to help you through the process is important. Please reach out to an independent insurance agent to review what is available in your area. They will be able to explain plans in specifics and answer your questions about Medicare Advantage vs Medicare Supplement.

Finally, Medicare.gov is also a good tool for answering your broader questions, and we also encourage you to comment on this page or contact us directly with any questions. Thanks!

Other Topics Related to Medicare Choices:

medicare advantage vs original medicare with a supplement - Medicare Life Health Pin
Please follow us:
error
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial