A similar situation is occurring for 1000’s of California seniors daily these days. As they approach their 65th birthday, the mail starts to get especially thick. You’re now the most popular person in all of the State…with the California Medicare supplement carriers. The shiny brochures and promises why they’re the best create a sheer tidal wave of information coming your way and we’re writing this article to help you narrow a great deal of those offers and really understand the current landscape of California Medigap carriers. So let us begin…before the mail carrier comes by again.
First of all, it’s important to understand that even though the California Medicare supplement plans are standardized (a C plan is a C plan regardless of the carrier), health insurance is still regulated and governed at the State level and this applies to California Medigap plans as well. There are some nationwide-type carriers which do business in California (think of Aetna or United Health) but their product offerings in the State will still be tailored to California rules, regulations, and maybe more important, market factors. So, Medicare is Federal while California Medigap carriers and plans are State specific. Let’s jump into the main carriers on the market.
First, there’s AARP which most seniors (you may start receiving info from them in your mid 50’s). AARP does not actually underwrite the California Medicare supplement but they partner with a large carrier who does. Currently, it’s United Health which is a respectable, nationwide based health insurance carrier. You will doubtlessly receiving much correspondence from AARP regarding their California Medigap plans and they should be part of the consideration.
Next up, you have the Blues. California is unique among the States (aside from various, other reasons) in that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California are two distinct carriers in our State. You have Anthem Blue Cross and separately, Blue Shield of California…both of which offer California Medicare supplemental insurance plans to State residents. Both have long track records and have been strong promoters of the Medigap plans for decades now so they are also strong contenders.
You then have large, multi-State carriers (some health and other’s life) which offer CA Medigap plans. Examples would be Aetna, Humana, Mutual of Omaha and the like. These are also contenders when comparing Med sup carriers in California but outside of a clear pricing advantage (which is not likely compared to AARP and the Blues), the benefit of such a consideration is limited. You may have had one of these carriers prior to Medicare and liked dealing with them which is fine. This is not inconsequential in your decision although the Senior (California Medicare supplement) and pre-65/group divisions of a California carrier can be completely different.
Below this rung, you have many smaller carriers, both health and life that jumped into the CA Medigap market. As licensed agents, we would probably stick with the stronger carriers which have longer track records specifically in the Medicare supplement market since this can affect price stability going forward. In another article, we’ll deal with how to compare and quote the various California Medicare supplement carriers so that you get the best value for your premium dollar and this is an important consideration since the pricing models can vary quite a bit. Ultimately, California has one of the most competitive health insurance markets which makes sense considering its size so you are fortunate to have a long list of available carriers to choose from, even if there are really only a few that merit your attention. This works to keep all of them “honest”.
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