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Sunday, October 2nd
Blue Cross Blue Shield goes by different names depending on where you live. The BCBS has a good overview of Medicare Advantage Plans, and when you enter your zip code you'll be redirected to the affiliate in your state. Those affiliate sites are usually easy to use, and you can typically compare all available plans and pricing. But, we found premiums to be higher than average, some plans didn't include the physicians we preferred, and BCBS affiliates have different levels of customer satisfaction.
Health IQ has made a name for itself by offering lower premiums on life insurance and other coverage to those who have healthy habits like regular exercise and vegetarian diets. Despite having an "A+" and accreditation from the BBB, this referral service wound up at the bottom of our rankings when it comes to Medicare Advantage Plans. Their website doesn't actually give quotes on policies, and we had a less-than-stellar experience when talking with multiple Health IQ reps to try and get information. Look elsewhere for your Medicare Advantage coverage.
As your 65th birthday approaches, it's time to start sorting through your options with respect to Medicare health coverage. Those options include several add-on components, one of which is Medicare Advantage.
What are Medicare Advantage Plans? Essentially, they allow you to take your Part A and B coverage and transfer their management to a private insurance company - often with insurers you may have already used in the past, like UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Although Advantage Plans come with some limitations - most require you to use in-network practitioners to maximize benefits, for example - they can be attractive for a number of reasons.
Think of it like an all-inclusive resort: you might give up some flexibility in exchange for knowing that everything is taken care of, from meals to entertainment, and you don't have to try and cobble together a plan for your perfect vacation. Similarly, Medicare Advantage bundles up a number of features, many times including prescription drug coverage and even dental/vision/hearing services, that otherwise you'd have to piece together on your own with separate standalone plans.
Medicare Advantage premiums vary by provider and by plan. It's possible to get a policy with $0 in monthly payments, but those tend to come with higher out-of-pocket costs like office visit copays and annual deductibles. It's also important to point out that you can't have an Advantage plan and a Medigap policy at the same time: you'll need to carefully consider your situation - anticipated health needs, your income and ability to pay monthly premiums vs. paying for hospitalizations and other major medical expenses, and so forth - to strategize which additional Medicare coverage you need and when.
There are two main approaches to buying a Medicare Advantage Plan: go directly to an insurance company or work with a broker. Buying your policy right from an insurer can feel more reliable, choosing a company you already know and trust, maybe even one that has been your healthcare insurance provider in the past. You can usually count on premium quotes to be the lowest possible for that particular company. However, going through a broker or a referral service doesn't necessarily mean you'll pay more - and you gain the advantage of getting policy quotes from multiple providers at once. No insurance company is going to tell you that you might get better coverage from a competitor!
Either route you choose, it's a good idea to do some research in advance: to familiarize yourself with the different Medicare Advantage Plans, their benefits and their average premium costs for someone in your demographic (age, gender, location, etc.). Otherwise you could find yourself feeling pressured to commit to a policy that might not be the best fit for your needs. There are many websites, offered both by brokers/referral services and by the insurance companies themselves, with helpful articles and tools to help you figure out what coverage is best suited to you. Also, be aware that in order to apply for any Medicare Advantage Plan, you'll need to have your Medicare number - so make sure you've taken the steps to enroll in Medicare before choosing your Advantage coverage.
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Medicare Advantage Plans available today. We hope our in-depth evaluations save you some time and hassle - by providing the detailed information you need to select the best provider and plan for your coverage!
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