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Oct 27 2011

Medicare Open Enrollment – Time to Figure It Out

This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard October 25, 2011

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If you’ve watched TV, read the newspaper, or logged on to any health-related website recently, then you may already know that it’s Medicare Open Enrollment time.

Open Enrollment means you have the opportunity to make choices that affect both your access to the healthcare you need, and the cost of that care, by choosing a payer plan that fits your needs.

Too many Medicare recipients simply default to whatever plan they used the year before, perhaps because they didn’t understand how to assess which plan would work best for them.

But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. There are some excellent resources available. So why not take the time this year to figure out which plan fits you the best?

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, begin with the Medicare Find-A-Plan website. It will walk you through your options, including pricing for the drugs you take, then will reveal your options and their costs. You can compare Original Medicare against many Medicare Advantage plans.  From customer service to co-pays and health ratings, you can weigh cost and coverage against quality to make your choice.

Another way to do your research is to attend plan presentation programs offered by the many insurers that offer Medicare Advantage Plans. They can be very informative, but remember that the speakers are salespeople. Their paychecks depend on enlisting new customers. Don’t be swayed by coffee, cookies and promises! Ask good questions and compare many plans before you sign a contract.

For those who need an additional helping hand, personal, tailored, free assistance is offered to help you sort out the options.  Called SHIP programs (State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs), they are staffed by volunteers who walk you through your decision making.

If Medicare Open Enrollment seems a bit early this year, it is.  The process was started earlier so it could end earlier, too – December 7th.  Ending the process early means you’ll be sure to get your Medicare ID card in time for early January appointments.

With so many ways to find help, you owe it to yourself to spend some time this Fall to review your Medicare options for 2012 and make needed adjustments.  It’s “only” your health and money, after all.

……………… ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC ………………

Medicare 101 – The Basics

Open Enrollment (Fall 2011) for Medicare 2012

What’s the Difference Between
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans
?

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