Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey reminds Medicare beneficiaries to compare and evaluate their current plans and make necessary changes during the annual Open Enrollment Period, Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2020. Medicare plans and prices change. It is important for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the Open Enrollment Period by contacting local Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselors to save money, improve coverage or both.
The Open Enrollment Period begins Oct. 15 and runs for eight weeks to give consumers enough time to review and make changes to their Medicare coverage. Changes must be made by Dec. 7, 2020 to guarantee coverage will begin without interruption Jan. 1, 2021.
It’s important to contact local SHIIP counselors before making a decision about coverage because beneficiaries may be able to receive more affordable and better Medicare health and/or drug plan options. For example, even if they are satisfied with their current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, there may be another plan in their area that covers health care and/or drugs at a better price.
SHIIP is a division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance and offers free, unbiased information about Medicare, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other health insurance issues. In addition to helping Medicare beneficiaries compare and enroll in plans during the Open Enrollment Period, SHIIP counselors can help people discover if they are eligible for Medicare cost savings programs.
Here are some of the ways to review and compare plans available for 2021:
- Get one-on-one help from beneficiaries’ local SHIIP office
- Get one-on-one help from SHIIP, the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program at NCDOI, by calling 1-855-408-1212, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare current coverage with all of the options available, and enroll in a new plan if it is advantageous to do so.
- Review the Medicare & You handbook. It was mailed to Medicare recipients in September.
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to find out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
For more information about SHIIP and the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, call 1-855-408-1212 or visit www.ncshiip.com.
Medicare coverage comes in two primary forms that participants can choose from, Orestis says. The original and traditional Medicare program is administered through the federal government and anyone 65 and older qualifies automatically. Meanwhile, there are Medicare Advantage plans that are sold by private insurance companies. Those have become increasingly popular, with more than one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in one. Beyond the usual things covered by health insurance, the Advantage plans sometimes offer additional services, such as routine vision, hearing and dental care.
If things aren’t bewildering enough, it’s also important to understand what Medicare Parts A, B, C and D are and what each does, Orestis says. “Here’s how that alphabet soup of Medicare coverage breaks down,” he says.”Medicare Part A pays for hospital and skilled nursing facility care. Medicare Part B pays 80 percent of costs for doctors, outpatient services and medical equipment. Medicare Part C is a private Advantage Plan. Medicare Part D pays for prescriptions.”
Even with Medicare coverage, patients can still have deductibles and copays that can add up quickly. “That’s where Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) comes in,” Orestis says. “It’s a private insurance that pays the gaps in the varieties of Medicare coverage.”