Original Medicare does not have an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs, and 4.5 million Medicare recipients are expected to spend more than $5,000 each on out-of-pocket health care costs in 2023. This lack of financial protection, combined with the fact that Original Medicare doesn’t cover all medical costs, has led to a lot of people buying Medicare Supplement Plans. This is because Medicare Supplement Plans fill in those gaps in coverage and financial protection. But how do private health insurance companies determine your premium? Insurance companies who offer Medicare Supplement Plans use three different pricing methods: attained-age, issue-age, and community-rated. Knowing how these prices work, can help you compare Medicare Supplement Plans and find the one that works best for you.
The Pricing Methods
The method a company uses for pricing has a significant impact on the overall cost of a policy. These 3 ratings are each based on different factors. First, we have attained age rating, which is based on the age you are when you sign up for your plan and will increase as you age. Next is issue-age rating, this method also uses your age when you enroll to determine your premium, but it will not increase as you get older. Finally, there is community-rated, which isn’t based on your age but instead is based on where you live. Below we’ve detailed each of these plans and how they work.
The costs of community-rated Medicare Supplement plans depend on where you live. No matter someone’s age, everyone pays the same premium for the same Medicare Supplement plan within their region, which is decided by the insurance company it can be by city or county. So, if you and your neighbor buy the same Medicare Supplement plan, your monthly premium will be the same even if you are 70 and your neighbor is 80.
Only a few states offer Medicare Supplement plans that are rated by the community. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Washington are some of these states. States that don’t offer community-rated plans may charge you a higher premium based on your age, depending on whether they offer attained-age or issue-age-rated plans at enrollment. Most of the time, community-rated plans have the least expensive premiums, but rates may be different depending on where you live, whether you live in a city or a rural area, among other things.
What States Have Community-Rated Medicare Supplement Plans?
In these eight states, the monthly premiums for Medicare Supplement policies must be based on the community rating:
- New York
Issue Age Rating
The premiums for issue-age-rated plans are based on how old you are when you sign up for coverage, similarly to attained age but they do not incrementally increase with age. For example, if you sign up for a plan at 65 your initial premiums will be less than if you signed up at 75. Most of the time, issue age plans also raise rates every year, but the rate increases are not based on your age like attained-age premiums are. Instead, they raise based on inflation and other factors that affect health costs.
If you sign up for this type of plan when you first become eligible to buy a Medicare Supplement plan, it costs less in the long run than plans for people who are older. But you should be aware that issue-age-rated plans start with higher premiums than attained-age-rated plans.
The issue-age method is used to rate Medicare Supplement insurance policies in the following states:
In these states, however, carriers may opt to use community ratings instead through an appeals process.
Attained Age Rating
Most of the time, Medicare Supplement insurance companies use attained-age rating models. The age when you sign up for the plan is used to figure out how much your premiums will cost. The younger you are when you enroll the lower your premiums will be. But these premiums are not locked in for life, as you age they will increase. For example, if you’re 65 years old, the premium for a certain Medicare Supplement plan might be $130, but if you’re 75, the same plan might cost $170. Generally, rates go up by a small amount each year or at a designated time. These rate increases are generally decided by state health insurance agencies.
Some states, like Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, have different rules for coverage as well as different Medicare Supplement Plans available. While those states have different plans they do all offer the same benefits they just operate in slightly different ways and have different names. If you live in one of these states, you can look at our state-by-state Medicare Supplement guide to find out exactly how your plans will be priced.
States that Offer Attained-Age Medicare Supplement Plans
No state requires carriers to offer Attained-Age Medicare Supplement plans. However, any state that is not required to specifically use a certain method is allowed to offer attained-age plans. There are many states that offer this pricing method but they can also offer any of the other methods as well. These states are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Choosing Between Attained Age, Issue Age, and Community Rating
When choosing between attained-age, issue-age, or community-rated plans, there are a few things to think about, such as:
- Your medical needs as a whole
- Costs and benefits of the plan
- Your age
- The plan provider’s reputation
- Premium cost rate projections
Different states have different levels of protection for Medicare recipients who want a Medicare Supplement plan. One such right to be on the lookout for is ‘guaranteed issue’ protections. With these rights, a Medicare Supplement insurance company can’t turn you down if you meet certain requirements. Such as, you suddenly lost a group health plan that covered your Medicare cost-sharing, You disenrolled from Medicare Advantage within 12 months of enrolling, or if your previous insurer no longer offers your Medicare Supplement Plan or commits fraud. They also promise to cover pre-existing conditions and won’t raise your premiums too much because of your health.
The easiest time to join a Medicare Supplement plan is during your six-month Medicare Supplement Open Enrollment Period, which starts when you sign up for Medicare Part B. After this initial enrollment period, Medicare Supplement plan providers can turn you down for coverage if you already have a health problem.
For example, if you drop your Medicare Supplement attained-age-rated coverage because it’s too expensive, you might not be able to buy another Medicare Supplement plan unless your state has continuous guaranteed issue rights or you meet other requirements. The states that have continuous guaranteed issue rights are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. Continuous guaranteed issue rights mean that all Medicare Supplement providers must sell policies at least once a month or all year long.
Before you sign up for a Medicare Supplement plan, it’s important to know the rating category so you can figure out how much your long-term premiums will cost.
What Else Affects Medicare Supplement Plan Costs?
Medicare Supplement premium prices can be affected by a number of other things. Rates can be affected by things such as the rate of inflation, the state you live in, the cost of health care, and your lifestyle. Lifestyle factors can include choices like smoking or drinking.
The plan benefits that you want to include will also affect the price of your plan. The cost of the plan will be higher if it has more benefits. Your premiums will be less if you choose a plan with a higher deductible. In order to choose the best plan, you should carefully look at your health care needs and how much each plan will cost in the long run.
How To Lower Medicare Supplement Plan Costs
There are other ways to lower your Medicare Supplement premiums besides researching your options and comparing different insurance companies, such as:
- High deductible plans – This could be a good choice if you are in good health and think you could pay more for the few claims you make.
- Getting a plan for your partner – Some companies give a Medicare Supplement Household Discount to couples who both buy Medicare Supplement policies from them.
- Bundling – Companies may lower the cost of your Medicare Supplement premiums if you buy another type of insurance from them, like life insurance.
It’s important to understand your pricing plan, whether you’re signing up for Medicare Supplement for the first time or you already have a policy. As a customer, if you know how companies charge for their services, you can make better decisions about what to buy. Be sure to do your research, and you might be surprised by how much you can save.
Working With EZ
If you are in the market for a Medicare Supplement Plan, one of the most important things you can do is compare the various plans’ premiums and benefits. This can require a significant amount of research, which can take a notable amount of time because you will need to call a number of different insurance companies in order to get quotes.
However, if you collaborate with an EZ agent, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to compare prices by 50%. When you work with a licensed agent, you gain access to a centralized resource where you can compare the Medicare Supplement Plan offerings of multiple insurance companies.
In addition to providing you with price comparisons, your agent can also explain the distinctions between the various plans. Your insurance agent will be able to assist you in comparing the out-of-pocket costs to the monthly premiums so that you can select the strategy that will save you the most money in the long run. Give us a call at 877-670-3602 to get started with your search for a Medicare Supplement Plan.