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A Q&A with Justine Bell of Cedar River Insurance

You’ve been publicly lauded for being so incredibly helpful to people with insurance questions whether they are or are not your client. It seems your goal is simply serving your community. What makes the people of Greater Lansing so important to you? 

That’s an easy one. I grew up in the Lansing area. These are my people. And, honestly, I came from the nonprofit sector, so I am still surprised and delighted to be making more than minimum wage. It’s more a mission than a job.


What do you think one of the biggest issues facing those headed toward retirement is as it relates to medical insurance?

Overwhelmingly, the biggest issue that people are concerned with is cost and then coverage. A number of people who are under 65 say that they’ve been working only for the benefits, and we are able to find them an inexpensive medical plan based on income. If the future retiree is over 65, they are worried about having the knowledge to make the “right choice” for Medicare coverage. Either way, we help answer their questions and send them off feeling more comfortable and prepared.


What is your best advice for helping our parents find the best rates/coverage?

Once someone is on Medicare, they should be communicating with their agent every year to make sure that they are still in the right plan. Plan costs and formularies, the list of drugs that plans cover, change every year, and we review both with our clients every fall during open enrollment. They can change plans from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, so it’s not a big window. People should reach out to their agents and ask for help reviewing.


Can you give an example of another thing retirees/seniors can do to get the best coverage and avoid catastrophic financial loss?

Medicare is really great coverage. There are actually not many situations where you’re looking at catastrophic financial loss. In the rare circumstance where something does happen, there are sometimes resources that we can refer people to. The main gap in Medicare is in specialty drugs, for instance, and we can have the client apply for a copay assistance card. We have been doing this for a while and have quite a few tricks up our sleeves. We can’t promise that we’re able to help in every situation, but many times we can.


How can we help our aging parents do the above?

As we age, it is so important to have an advocate. Check in and see if they’ve reviewed their policies recently. Find out if there are any points of concern with their current plan. CMS publishes star ratings for each plan on a five-star scale, so you can find out if the plan they have is rated well. Have a plan in place if parents can’t care for themselves, like a power of attorney, and make sure that is filed with their plans and Medicare proper.