New competition for Medicare supplements in Texas

The top dogs of the Texas Medicare Supplement market are getting a run for their money. Two competing airlines have entered the scene, clawing their way to the top in most Texas zip codes. Cigna, underwritten by American Retirement Life Insurance Company, and Manhattan Life have recently caught the attention of agents and consumers in Texas. With low premiums and fast processing, it’s no wonder these two carriers manage to attract massive amounts of new customers and exposure so quickly.

American Retirement Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Cigna, began selling Medicare supplements in Texas in early February 2013. In the past year, ARLIC has delivered very competitive rates, dramatically improving the landscape of Texas Medicare supplements. Before the Cigna brand, only three carriers could really offer the lowest premiums: Omaha Insurance, Oxford Life, and Continental Life (Aetna). These carriers each have their own postal codes that they pursue competitively. Your chances of getting more than 1 or 2 “good” rates in any zip code were low a year ago. You have either Omaha, Oxford or Continental, in addition to one of the less competitive brands. They were slim pickins.

With Cigna added to the mix, consumers are finding better rates and more options for selecting a quality carrier.

Cigna also offers a quick and easy application process, just like Manhattan Life. Through an electronic application, agents can submit new cases and effortlessly save their clients money. New cases are usually issued within 3 days to 2 weeks (they have policy issues of 3-5 days). Of course, this also depends on the time of year when the application is submitted. Open enrollment months are inevitably busier.

Thanks to their low rates, Cigna has seen tremendous demand. They are quickly hiring more staff to keep up with the demand for their product. This growth in their business within the first year of business is extraordinary and can only mean success. If you are a consumer and concerned about the financial prospects of this company, this should assure you that ARLIC’s low rates and the Cigna brand are here to stay.

Located in Austin, Texas, ARLIC’s rates are very competitive for residents of Travis County and surrounding areas. There are also a few other “hot” areas, such as zip codes in and around North Texas. If you’re a Medicare Supplement policyholder living in one of these areas, it may be time to call an agent and have your current policy reviewed.

ARLIC offers plans A, F, G, and N — which are also available in 18 other states. You can check availability on the ARLIC website.

A more recent addition to the Texas Medicare Supplement market is Manhattan Life. A few months ago, Manhattan Life was not being sold in Texas. Honestly, I didn’t know this company at all. Then, slowly, I started seeing their name pop up in my quote engine – and now when I search Texas zip codes, Manhattan Life is definitely in the top 5 in most areas, even top 2 in some. I suspect this will change (for the better) as they grow over the next year.

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Like Cigna, Manhattan Life is a reputable and financially sound carrier, part of a larger family; Central United Life, Western United Life, and Family Life are all close relatives and trusted brands in the industry.

Along with Texas, Manhattan Life offers Medigap plans in AZ, GA, IL, IN, MI, MS, NC, NE, PA, SC, TN, TX, and VA. Plans available for purchase include A, B, C, D, F, G, M, and N, which offer more breadth than ARLIC (although not all are offered in every state).

Both Cigna and Manhattan Life are leaders in many areas around Texas. While Cigna is still number one of the two, I suspect Manhattan Life is targeting more specific niches, if it hasn’t already. I also expect both companies to evolve over the next several years – whether that means stabilizing their rates and focusing on specific areas or perhaps, in the case of Manhattan Life, pushing Cigna out of the top spot; Time will tell.

A few consumers have expressed concerns about buying a policy from a new carrier and then letting the carrier pull a “bait and switch” by raising rates and leaving their customers with high premiums. While I can’t guarantee anything, I don’t think this would be a smart technique for either company. Remember that even though their rates are low, they are still competing with powerhouses that have been selling in Texas for years. It will take them 5-10 years to build a solid reputation in the midst of such dominant competition.

Fortunately for consumers, the emergence of these new products only makes rates more competitive. If you’ve never thought about getting your policy reviewed, now’s the perfect time to call an agent, as carriers are fighting for your business more than ever.