‘We can help seniors find a plan that is suitable for their needs’
By Jim Palmer
Princeton Agencies Insurance has been offering insurance and financial products in Minnesota for more than 120 years.
One important service that Princeton Agencies provides to its clients is help with enrollment into a Medicare Advantage, Cost, Medigap or Part D prescription drug plan that best fits their changing needs and lifestyle. A review of those plans is always important, as plans and networks can change every year. A good example of unexpected changes that can affect Medicare plans are when insurance companies and health care systems cannot reach a network service agreement. For instance, for 2021, Humana and M Fairview Health Systems were unable to reach a contract agreement for their Medicare Advantage plans. Seniors who had Humana plans and used Fairview as their primary provider were faced with the unpleasant choice of having to find a new Medicare plan that was accepted in the Fairview network, or keeping their existing plan and changing health providers to retain in-network coverage. Although notified of the potential problem in advance of open enrollment, many seniors did not change plans during the open enrollment period last year because they expected a resolution between Humana and Fairview which never occurred. It is likely there will be more situations like this for central Minnesota seniors in 2022.
Fortunately, Medicare plans can be reviewed and changed each year during the open enrollment period, which begins Oct. 15, 2021.
“Seniors can exercise their option to change plans during this time,” said David Haugen, a Medicare agent at Princeton Agencies. “We are licensed with all the major Medicare carriers in Minnesota and we can help seniors find a plan that is suitable for their needs.”
There are many plans available, so sifting through the plans can be time consuming and difficult. Princeton Agencies knows the products and can help guide seniors into the right plans.
“Help with Medicare products is crucial because it is important to match the ideal plan to each client’s unique set of health needs,” said Haugen. “Medicare plan offerings vary greatly, as does each client’s health profile, pharmaceutical needs, expected future use of the plan being considered, and likelihood of the client having a future life event change. One example of a life event change might be a plan to move to a different county, or into an assisted living facility in the next year. With so many factors to consider, an agent’s experience in choosing a plan can be invaluable to a client that is new to Medicare.”
Haugen said that given the complexity of Medicare rules and products, agents are required to re-certify every year to prove they are fluent in all aspects of Medicare.
“With such a high bar for the professionals, one can imagine the uphill climb it would be for someone new to Medicare to fully investigate and appropriately consider the features and coverages with each individual Medicare plan,” he said. “Additionally, there are many plans available inside each company, and many companies to choose from, so the possibilities can seem like a tidal wave. An agent can step in to stem the tide and assist a client.”
Some of the factors to consider when choosing a plan, according to Haugen, include health background, expected frequency of use, the client’s list of prescriptions they want covered, if the client is planning a permanent move, and budget considerations.
“And perhaps most important, what medical networks are available for each plan and whether or not the client’s preferred doctors and facilities are ‘in-network,’” said Haugen.
If a senior selects the wrong plan, they could be in for some surprises.
“They may be surprised with out of network charges for their preferred doctor and/or facilities,” said Haugen. “They could have to pay full price for a prescription that could have been covered with a more suitable drug plan. They could pay more for services that the client will never use. And they could experience a lack of coverage for services the client intended to cover.” Last year many seniors ended up having out of network costs as Humana and M Fairview health systems failed to reach a contract agreement for 2021. This sent many seniors scrambling for different coverage last year, and many did not get the help they needed to choose an adequate replacement plan that would offer In-network coverage.
Haugen noted that there is no additional expense to the client for receiving help to enroll in a Medicare plan, as insurance agents are compensated by the carrier.
When should a person start looking at enrolling into Medicare?
“Our recommendation is that folks new to Medicare select a knowledgeable agent and begin discussing potential solutions six months prior to their 65th birthday,” said Haugen. “The earliest a client can actually sign up for Medicare products is three months prior to their 65th birthday, which would then take effect on the first day of their birthday month. This is called the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Lead time is necessary in many cases so the agent can make recommendations regarding the client’s possible Part B Election prior to buying a Medicare product. This is usually necessary to qualify.”
With its roots in Princeton, family-owned Princeton Agencies has full service offices offering in-person consultations available in Princeton, Cambridge, Milaca, Foley, and Onamia.
“You need to know the area, what plans are available, and what plans local doctors and hospitals accept before you can make the best choice in buying a product to supplement your Medicare. As local professional agents who live and work in the area, we can help with that!” said Haugen, “and, we are able to offer service all year round when you need it.”
To connect with an agent at Princeton Agencies, call any of the offices -- Princeton at (763) 389-3650, Cambridge at (763) 444-4544, Foley at (320) 968-6973, Milaca at (320) 983-3913 and Onamia at (320) 532-4645. You can also email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can learn more about Princeton Agencies by visiting www.princetonins.com. The agency also offers locally serviced personal and commercial lines of insurance offered through more than 50 insurance companies.
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