Medigap: Not so Easy to Find

by Weiss Ratings | February 6, 2012

As many of us approach retirement age, or find ourselves helping senior family members, we’re looking for more and better information on health insurance plan benefits. And, of course, we’re also focused on getting the best deal for our buck. So, getting information on Medicare and Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap) is more crucial to us than ever before. Yet, according to a study by keylimeinteractive.com, consumers are finding it’s not so easy to get the information they need from health insurance company web sites.

They looked at ease of use, customer satisfaction and productivity for top insurance web sites such as Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, United Healthcare, and BlueCross/Blue Shield. They collected feedback about the health insurance web sites from over 200 people living in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland or Ohio. Those selected to look at the web sites were eligible for Medicare or would become eligible within a year. Even caregivers such as sons, daughters and spouses were included.

The participants were asked to look at only one of the health insurer web sites and provide feedback on how difficult or easy it was to get a basic understanding of Medicare supplement insurance. Then, they were asked to use the same site to get the premium rate for any one of the Medicare supplemental insurance policies available on the site. Of course insurance company web sites only include information for their own benefit plans.  

We’re pretty sure you won’t be surprised to know that the health insurer sites weren’t rated too highly. The sites just didn’t meet the needs of consumers looking for information on benefits and associated premium rates to make these very critical decisions. 

The Blue Cross/Blue Shield (Anthem) web site was rated best overall for research and quote experience with 52% satisfaction. Still, not a great showing for “best” user experience, if you ask us. And, for all the sites, participants overwhelmingly showed their dissatisfaction by indicating they wouldn’t recommend a friend or colleague.

Interestingly, all of the sites saw an increase in brand awareness following the study. This may have been the affect of participants going back to the sites to see if they could find what they hadn’t found before. We’re not sure why, but it so happens that Aetna had the highest brand awareness at that point.

While we know health insurer sites continue to try to improve the user experience, no matter what they do, they will always have one basic flaw – they don’t give consumers the complete story.   As long as insurers limit information to their own premium quotes, consumers should not rely solely on them for information. To make fully informed decisions when it comes to selecting the best benefits for the best price, consumers need to be able to compare across insurance companies. So where’s a good place to look?

Well, there’s no reason not to visit and review insurance company web sites. But, take our advice and expand your search to include a reliable, objective source.

WeissRatings.com is one of the few sources, in fact Weiss may be the only source, where consumers can get comprehensive information about how Medicare supplements work, when you’re eligible, when you can change plans, the benefits included in each plan, and also get actual premium prices available in your zip code for almost all of the nation’s insurers. And, because Weiss doesn’t sell insurance, you can count on getting objective information with no conflict of interest. Weiss researches and provides premium rates online for more than 160 insurers nationwide.

If you’ve seen the recent Weiss study, you’ll know it pays to compare. We found Medicare supplement (Medigap) policy rates vary between companies by 1,316% for the same exact benefits. It’s almost impossible to believe, but true none-the-less.

Connecticut seniors are paying the highest premiums for Medigap plans, while Utah and Hawaii seniors pay the lowest. Now wait; Isn’t Connecticut the insurance capital of the U.S. You might think with all those insurers based in Connecticut, they would offer their best rates to people living within their own home state? Maybe that would be good business and maybe it wouldn’t be, but it’s certainly clear that’s not what’s happening.

So, first you’ll want to go to WeissRatings.com to find out about eligibility for a Medigap plan and how to get started. You’ll see information on what Medicare covers, the gaps in Medicare, and how to select a Medigap plan. You’ll find educational material, and helpful videos that will give you a better understanding of the role of a Medigap plan and how it works with Medicare.

Then, you’ll want to get familiar with the benefits each plan type provides. Once you feel comfortable that you know the benefits you want or need, you can start to compare premium rates. Use the Weiss search tool to see the high and low premium range for each plan for your profile and zip code, for free.

And, if you want to get more detailed specifics for benefits and rates, you can get a personalized price comparison report designed especially to give you a look at the premium rates for each insurer offering Medigap policies in your area.

Whether you’re looking for a Medicare supplement for yourself or for a family member, you’ll find information to help identify the benefits that will work best for your situation. And, you’ll be able to compare actual prices that insurers are offering. Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll be prepared to talk to the insurance company you select. And, you can make sure any agent you choose won’t limit your options to policies that pay them the highest commissions. You’ll be prepared to recognize the best deal.

And, of course, you should always make sure to check the Weiss Financial Strength Rating for any insurer you use. After all, you don’t want to worry about whether, or when, your claims will be paid. 

Other Weiss Ratings information on Medicare supplemental insurance:

Best Medigap Rates

Medicare Supplement Insurance: Choosing Your Plan

Do I Need Medicare Supplement Insurance?

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