Health Insurance Matters: Underwriting Holiday

Richard came into the office upset that he went to the gym and his Silver Sneakers membership had been cancelled. We asked him what health insurance plan he was on, and he told me it was the AARP/United Healthcare Medicare Supplement Plan F. I needed to agree that in fact, United Healthcare had discontinued the Silver Sneakers program. If we acted swiftly, he could have the same health insurance benefits, namely any doctor and any hospital that accepts Medicare with 100 percent first dollar coverage for most services.

He changed plans immediately once he understood that he would be paying a bit less, and also getting additional benefits.

Judith had a similar issue, but hers was cost. She had had a recent premium increase on her Blue Shield Medicare Supplement Plan F and saw my advertisement in the Kern Valley Sun. The ad offers the exact same benefits that she is currently receiving on her Plan F, but also included Silver Sneakers as well as a vision, hearing aid and Emergency Response System. With those add-ons, and a lower monthly premium, she enrolled in the new Blue Shield of California Plan F Extra.

Sandra (age 90) and George (87) reduced their coverage several years ago to a Medicare Supplement Plan C. With the switch from the Plan F they reduced their monthly premiums and also lost several benefits. Some doctors charge more than what Medicare determines as a reasonable charge. The law allows these doctors to charge up to an additional 15 percent more. This is called the Part B Excess Charge. Plan F covers it, while Plan C does not. For most people it isn’t a big deal, unless they need a top-flight surgeon or high-end specialist. (These guys can change more and often do.) These two are both very active, and the thought of an Emergency Response System (ERS) was very attractive. The new modern systems provide emergency service nationally with the touch of a button. The system will work equally at home or in the neighborhood park. While “On-Star” requires a new car, this system travels with you wherever you go, whether to the store or to visit family out of town. If there is Wi-Fi, you are protected.

Lastly, Rudy called in from Orange County complaining that he had to pay $185 on his last doctor’s visit because he had changed to a Medicare Supplement Plan G, which does not cover the deductible. He admits that he did this to lower his monthly premium, but the large deductible hurt all at one time. He only wishes he hadn’t changed plans, and would like to go back to his Plan F. However, an upgrade requires his answering medical questions, and he is no longer able to answer all the health history questions with a “no.”

Blue Shield has done an unprecedented move in the Medicare Supplement industry. They have created a plan which has the Silver Sneakers Gym membership. (By the way, it is portable, so you can go to Valley Fitness in Lake Isabella today, and tomorrow go for a swim in an indoor pool in Bakersfield at participating locations.)

The new Medicare Plan F Extra provides an Emergency Response System, including the free set up and free monthly maintenance, a vision plan using the MESVision network of providers, including our own Dr. Larry E. Waggoner, OD, many optometrists in Bakersfield, as well as Opticians at Wal-Mart, Costco, Lens Crafters, Stockdale Optical, Target, Sam’s Club and more.

BOTTOM LINE: The monthly premium for this plan is lower than the current Blue Shield Plan F for almost everybody from 65 – 80. It may be lower than many competing plans, even with less coverage. I am offering free quotes over the phone. Oh, one more thing… There are no medical qualifying questions during this “Underwriting Holiday.” This is a limited time offer, as the “holiday” ends April 15. There is no obligation, so call today, and spread the word. This opportunity to save money and upgrade benefits (no medical questions) is unprecedented.

Harry P. Thal, MA, is a licensed insurance broker in California (0621106) and 27 other states. His offices are in Kernville. He is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors and Past-President of the Kern Association of Health Underwriters. He may be reached at 760-376-2100, e-mail or visit him on the web at

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