Medicare Beneficiaries Encouraged to Compare and Evaluate their Current Plans and Make Necessary Changes During the Annual Open Enrollment Period, Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2020

Published Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 10:01 am

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.

 

Confused By Medicare Options? Here’s
A Tutorial As Open Enrollment Arrives
 
Once a year, an important window of opportunity arrives for Medicare beneficiaries and those about to enroll in the government’s health insurance program for older Americans.
 
It’s the Medicare open enrollment period, which runs annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During those nearly two months, new enrollments are allowed and current recipients can make changes to their plans.
 
And it’s definitely not a period to be taken lightly because careful study is required to determine what Medicare plan is best for any individual, says Chris Orestis, the president of LifeCare Xchange who is known as the “Retirement Genius” (www.retirementgenius.com).
 
“Enrolling in Medicare can be complicated, and if you don’t pay attention you can end up missing needed coverage or paying more out-of-pocket expenses in premiums, co-pays and deductibles than you realize– or can afford,” Orestis says.
 
About 68 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here are a few important facts to know for anyone ready to enroll and join them, or who needs to change their plan:
  • 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.”
Still confused? Not to worry. Assistance is available to help people understand and navigate enrollment, Orestis says. Insurance agents who specialize in Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plans can help with initial enrollment and open enrollment.
 
Free assistance can also be obtained through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Medicare Rights Center. Also, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which is the government agency that administers both Medicare and Medicaid, provides a wealth of information and resources to review and assist enrollment on their website, Orestis says.
 
“When it comes to Medicare enrollment, don’t procrastinate,” he says. “Not being informed, missing deadlines, or making the wrong selections can cause delays and penalties that could have a negative impact on your coverage – and your wallet.”
 
 
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