SC Medicare customers warned that false info is spreading about supplemental plans

Ray Farmer02.jpg (copy)

S.C. Department of Insurance director Ray Farmer. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Medicare beneficiaries beware: The S.C. Department of Insurance is warning consumers that false information is circulating about certain add-on insurance plans they often buy.

The agency issued a notice because certain supplemental policies are being phased out, and that appears to have caused confusion. The department said it wants people to know they won’t be affected if they are 65 years old or will be by Jan. 1.

The plans in question are supplements to the core  traditional Medicare coverage, also called Medigap. Customers can decide whether to buy them. In South Carolina, 25 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have the plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A law passed in 2015, taking effect next year, will change what kinds of coverage can be sold.

That is where some confusion and false information has stemmed from. Medigap coverage cannot be canceled, according to the alert.

“Any time we have changes people are going to have questions,” said Ray Farmer, director of the S.C. Department of Insurance. “We thought we would get out in front of this issue as best we could, to not only give an explanation but to let customers know we’re available.”

Farmer said the agency sent the alert after fielding calls from concerned consumers. Customers who already have this insurance — called plan F — will be able to keep it. And premiums are not expected to increase drastically, according to BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

Gavin Barney, a broker and Medicare expert at Lowcountry Health Brokers, said he and others in the industry have not recommended the plan for several years.

“They modernized the plans and made some changes,” he said.

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