UNITED STATES—Toni: We have received a 20 percent increase in our Plan F Medicare Supplement. I’m a 70-year-old female in decent health, but my husband is undergoing cancer treatment. Also, his cardiologist has advised him that he may need a pacemaker.

I’ve understand and was told that Medicare Annual Enrollment is our time to change our Medicare Supplement plans. I’m concerned that with the Medicare Supplement increase that we may not be able to afford the premiums with future increases. Would a Medicare Advantage plan be a good option to change to with Fred’s cancer issues? What we should do?  Signed Cathy from Virginia.

Cathy: Cathy, you were given wrong information because you do not have to wait until Medicare Annual Enrollment to make a Medicare Supplement change. You can change your Medicare Supplement any time during the year. Medicare Annual Enrollment is a time to change your Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan

You are not alone with receiving a Medicare Supplement plan F increase.  It seems that the Plan F renewal increase is more than the Plan G or other Medicare Supplement plan increases. Most insurance agents are finding out about the increases via an email from the insurance company informing of a renewal rate adjustment.

In 2015, Congress passed legislation called “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015” (MACRA) to help the medical industry by correcting the “Doc Fix” proposal. MACRA also made changes to Medicare Supplement’s plans F and C which begins January 1, 2020.

Those who want to change their current Medicare Supplement plan and have had their Medicare Part B longer than 6 months must now answer underwriting questions regarding their health as you and your husband will have to do.

Cathy, you have an option to change from Plan F to other Medicare Supplement plans such as plan G or N, but you must qualify medically. If you cannot qualify because of a health issue, then there is a Medicare Advantage plan which puts you in control of your healthcare called a Medicare Savings Account (MSA).

Let’s discuss the difference:

•        Medicare Supplement Plan G: offer lower rates and the same Medicare benefits as Plan F except the Medicare Part B deductible is not covered and will be paid for by the enrolled Medicare beneficiary. Part B deductible for 2019 is $185.

•        Medicare Supplement Plan N: generally has lower premiums than Plan G with generally more out of pocket.  There is a $20 co pay for a doctor visit with $50 co pay for emergency room.  Part B deductible is not covered, and Part B excess charges are not paid for by the insurance company which Plan G includes.

•        Medicare Advantage MSA (Medicare Savings Account): high deductible Medicare Advantage health plan plus a special savings account for medical expenses. No network sees any Medicare provider or facility that will bill the MSA plan. More MSA (Medicare Savings Account) plan information in next week’s article)

Caution:  You can change your Medicare Supplement policy at any time. Do not cancel your existing policy until you have been approved by your new Medicare insurance company whether choosing a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan.

Toni King, author of the Medicare Survival Guide® is giving a $5 discount on the  Medicare Survival Guide® Advanced book to the Toni Says® Medicare column readers at www.tonisays.com.