When a new carrier enters a new market, such as many of these smaller companies that you have never heard of before, they are allowed to have rates that are too low and cannot compete, over time.
They are allowed to make projections on their expected losses, and those projections are just that, projections. When they are new, the state insurance departments allow them to do this, until they have real data, which takes up to 2 years.
During this timeframe, they will very often undercut the entire market with rates that are not justifiable. This means that they cannot sustain those low rates but hope, as they often to, that they will get so many customers during the first year or two, based on super-low rates, that their customers will stay with them when they spring out the REAL rates. These rate increases have been seen to be up to 15% per year, once the “honeymoon” phase has worn off with the Department of Insurance, and they need to go from “buying business” with super low rates, to actually becoming profitable by raising rates.
What is sad to see, is where a senior goes on their own rate sheet, or advice from a brand new agent who does not know better, and gets the “cheapest” plan in the market from an off-brand insurance company that has virtually no experience in the market. When they have been in the market less than 2 years, and they are offering what we call a “teaser” rate, this is a recipe for disaster.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
If you plan on being on Medicare longer than two years, the long term viability of the insurance company you pick should be very important to you. The rate stability is absolutely critical because, in most all states, you must qualify with health underwriting in order to change companies. When doing this, if you have suffered a catastrophic or progressively worsening condition that might last your entire life, as we see far too often, you are then STUCK with the insurance company you are with. Being with a “cheap” carrier right off the bat might very well mean that you are stuck with a company that:
1) Got you in with below-justified rates that they cannot sustain; and
2) Have too small an insured base to spread that risk among tens of thousands of other seniors in your state, like the larger insurance companies can do.
What happens in this case is that the small carrier can then go back to the Department of Insurance and get large, double-digit rate increases approved.
Now, if you can predict what your health will be with certainty, in the next two years – great – take that teaser rate and switch companies when you get that first massive rate increase. It is sound advice to take a slightly higher cost company from the beginning of your Medicare journey. Preferrably, one with possibly millions of covered lives throughout the entire country, not just coverage in one state or one very small region. This is how you spread your risk and have rate stability throughout your entire time on Medicare.
While no agent can predict the future and see what rate increases will come from what company with certainty, what I have experienced in 25 years of the insurance business is that experience in the industry matters. Anyone can offer a super cheap rate. What do they do after that super cheap rate is the question.
How is their customer service with a small startup insurer?
How good are they at paying claims, with a small cheap company new to the market?
These are just but a few reasons why our clients are happy with our recommendations. We choose long term quality over short term cheap.
– Christopher Westfall, Sr. RFC