Medicare open enrollment ongoing through December 7

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Local insurance agents now enrolling seniors

Medicare open enrollment is ongoing until Dec. 7, and two local brokers are doing all they can to make sure seniors 65-plus get the best possible plans available to them.

Mark Smith, with Willis Insurance in Cassville, said now is the time for people to make changes to their Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plans, if there's something out there that's better. "Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage are subject to change every year," he said. "Each year, people can keep their same plans or make changes, so it's good to take a look at it.

"There are monthly premiums for the supplements, and the Advantage plans have co-payments. How much you want to pay determines the amount of the premium."

Jeff Bell, with Bell and Associates in Monett, one of the only brokers in the area who deals with all Medicare plans, said a big change this year is new options for seniors in Barry and Lawrence counties.

"We have some new companies in Barry and Lawrence counties, like Anthem, who has come in with a new HMO," he said. "It's benefit-rich and has a low max out-of-pocket. There's also new things like Live Health Online, which lets people access a doctor online 24-7, 365. And, if something is serious, they are referred to a doctor or to the emergency room.

"Another thing out there is that they are changes to Part D, the prescription drug plans, where they're phasing out the donut hole. So, there's less spent out of pocket, but they are now adding a deductible."

Smith said where a senior lives and the senior's age are factors in supplemental plans.

"Advantage plans are generally pretty uniform, but subject to change," he said. "Supplemental plans A-J are offered, and the way they work is by deciding how much of the gaps a person wants to fill in. The prices usually go up with age, but the benefits stay the same."

Smith said not a lot of agencies deal with senior health insurance because brokers have to certify every year with the feds, and with each of the providing companies.

"I am certified with three different companies for Medicare Advantage plans and three or four for prescription drug plans," he said. "I have hundreds of clients, and I show them all the plans and Medicare supplements to let them decide what they think is best. Medicare Advantage is also network-specific, so I make sure they can keep their doctors and hospitals they like."

Bell said he has about 600 clients, and that number continues to grow.

"I started focusing on Medicare five or six years ago, and I've really increased my clientele drastically over the past three years," he said. "I've got a lot of new people coming in, especially when I go out to Walmart, people are referred to me or I meet them at seminars and public presentations I give.

"My goal is not to sell, but more to inform people to make sure they get the best out of their benefits."

Bell said a lot of people qualify for extra help, but do not realize it, which is why it is important to see a broker about Medicare plans.

"People can get help with Part B, or there things like Missouri RX, which pay for half of the prescription costs," Bell said.

For more information about Medicare open enrollment, people may contact Smith at 417-847-3300, or Bell at 417-235-7900.

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