More than half of seniors who are currently enrolled in a Medicare plan worked independently to compare and select their coverage according to a just-completed national study.

The latest survey found that only 44% of individuals between ages 64 and 68 who are currently enrolled in Medicare used an independent insurance agent or broker when shopping for coverage. Greenwald Research conducted the study in partnership with the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance (AAMSI).

Consumers generally fall into three camps when it comes to how they use insurance agents to help compare Medicare options. Medicare 'age-ins' turning 65 and first eligible for the program as well as early retirees are most likely to seek assistance. Among consumers currently enrolled in a Medicare plan some 53% of survey respondents did not work directly with a broker. These individuals worked independently to compare and select coverage.

Comparing available Medicare options can be a daunting task considering there can be as many as 50 different options based on where you live. The 62.0 million participants in the government health care program break down into three significantly different categories. Several million currently only have Medicare Parts A and B, generally referred to as Original Medicare.

The majority of Medicare beneficiaries currently participate in a Medicare Advantage (MA) program. At the conclusion of 2020, some 24.1 million individuals were participants in a MA plan, also referred to as Medicare Part C. Increasingly the best Medicare Advantage plans also include prescription drug coverage as part of the coverage. Many are adding a limited amount of coverage for dental, vision and other services.

The third available option is a Medicare Supplement policy, offered by an insurance company. These plans, also referred to as Medigap, are the current choice of some 14 million Medicare beneficiaries. The best Medicare Supplement plans can vary quite dramatically in cost based on where one lives.

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Five Questions To Ask When Choosing Medicare Coverage

Comparing the different Medicare plan options can be complex. Some plans have costs such as monthly premiums while others do not. However, what appears to be a free plan may expose you to deductibles and co-payments that can exceed the cost of monthly insurance premiums.

Some Medicare plans provide the option of seeing any medical professional that accepts Medicare. Others may limit you to specific providers including the ability to seek second opinions from specialists of your choosing.

Here are five questions to help when considering your Medicare coverage options.

 What is the history of rate increases?

 Will the plan cover me if I move or have two houses?

 Am I covered if I travel out of the country?

 Are drugs covered by the plan?

 Are there any discounts or ways to reduce the plan cost?

The Medicare program provides numerous opportunities to revisit coverage and switch to improve your benefits and possibly reduce cost. More than half (57%) of Medicare beneficiaries do not review or compare coverage options annually according to Medicare insurance consumer data reported by AAMSI.

What To Ask Any Medicare Insurance Agent

The term insurance agent and insurance broker seem to be interchangeable. However, experts explain that there can be a significant difference.

Both must be licensed and meet state-specific requirements. However, an insurance agent is typically able to only represent one insurance company. Officially, they are an agent of that particular company.

Conversely, an insurance broker can represent and sell policies offered by multiple companies. The term is 'appointed to sell' and can be significant to your decision of who to work with because. Generally a sales person will advocate on behalf of insurance plans they can be paid for when purchased.

Asking one simple question can help you ascertain how many insurance companies the agent or broker can represent. "How many different Medicare insurance companies are you appointed with?" An agent appointed only with one carrier may indeed be able to offer you the best option for your needs and budget. But, by asking the question, you'll know if they truly have your best interest at heart.

One way to find a listing of local Medicare insurance brokers is to access the online directory offered by the American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance. The zip code based directory is free to use and can be accessed without inputting any personal information.

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