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Friday, December 9th
BCBS, or Blue Cross Blue Shield, is one of the largest insurance providers nationwide. From family health insurance to Medicare add-ons and more, millions of Americans have a BCBS card in their wallets.
Main Site Has Valuable Resources
When you visit the main BCBS page for Medicare Advantage, you'll find lots of information to help you understand the coverage: what costs you should anticipate, like premiums and deductibles; limits and considerations; how and when to enroll. This site is a good resource if you need an overview of Medicare Part C before you start shopping around for a plan.
BCBS Site Will Redirect To Local Affiliate
At the top of the page, you'll see a box to enter your zip code to find coverage in your area. This is where things get interesting, because you'll be redirected to the Blue Cross Blue Shield provider that services your area. For example, when we looked up our sample client, an almost-65-year-old woman in Wisconsin, we were redirected to the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield page. That site allowed us to enter (again) our zip code and county to view all Anthem BCBS plans in our area.
Might not get preferred physicians in network
Our "client" had four plans to choose from, with monthly premiums ranging from $0 to $27 and out of pocket maximums from $4500 to $7550 for in-network costs. Unfortunately, the preferred doctor was not included in the Anthem BCBS network (but was available through policies offered by one of Anthem's rivals). We liked that the Anthem BCBS site clearly spelled out which benefits were included with each policy and which ones were optional (e.g. dental, vision, or a combination of the two).
Premiums Higher Than Average
We had a similar experience when we entered a zip code for Florida with a high population of people eligible for Medicare Advantage Plans. This took us to the site for Florida Blue, and we were able to either explore plans or use a tool to help us choose (though the latter returned results that weren't exclusively Medicare Advantage policies, but also Medigap and prescription drug coverage). Even exploring plans showed us everything Florida Blue had available, which included 7 Medicare Advantage Plans. The monthly premiums ranged from $0 to $146.80 (the most expensive of any insurer we found) and had maximum out of pocket costs from $2500 to $6700. Unlike the BCBS plans offered in Wisconsin through Anthem, all of Florida Blue's Medicare Advantage policies included dental, vision and hearing benefits.
Reputation Varies By State
Of course, that means that reputation varies as well: a BCBS affiliate in one state could have an excellent track record while another is absolutely terrible. For instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue) has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been in business for over 70 years, while Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Wisconsin only gets a "C+" from the BBB.
Get Quotes From Multiple Insurers
We give Blue Cross Blue Shield a good recommendation for having a helpful website, easy links to find their affiliates in your state, and because most affiliate sites make it simple to get and compare quotes for Medicare Advantage Plans. But, we are also keeping an eye on the fact that BCBS' premiums were some of the highest we've seen, and that results vary depending on where you live. It might be wise to use a broker or referral service that can give you quotes from multiple insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, to make sure that your coverage gives you the most for your money.
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!
Select any 2 Medicare Advantage Plans to compare them head to head