Q: My husband and I are both retiring in the next few months after reaching our full retirement age for Social Security. We can’t keep the health insurance we have through our employers, but we haven’t been able to agree on what coverage is best for us. It’s often hard to sift through all the information and options out there. Do you have suggestions how we go about making this important decision?
A: The decision you will soon be making is extremely important. The good news is you may be one call or click away from finding the answers to your health insurance questions. Every state has a free health insurance counseling program funded by the federal government for individuals who are enrolled in Medicare or will be eligible for it. In Massachusetts, the program is called SHINE, which stands for Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone.
SHINE counselors are trained and certified by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide information to individuals or their caregivers, and they are not affiliated with any health care plan. The SHINE program operates under the umbrella of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore. There are 14 SHINE programs across the commonwealth.
Counselors can provide accurate information on benefits and options available for Medicare beneficiaries, including Medicare Part A and B, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Supplement plans (Medigap). They also can help individuals in selecting a Medicare prescription drug plan. If the wrong plan is chosen it could result in inadequate coverage for your health care needs and additional expenses incurred. Couples may benefit from choosing different plans according to their health care status and the prescriptions they take, this is not a “one size fits all” situation. Due to COVID, counselors are available by phone at 1-800-243-4636.
There is also a wealth of information online, including a tool to screen for plan that best meets your needs, at medicare.gov/medicarecoverageoptions.
Medicare open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Medicare Advantage open enrollment is from Jan. 1 to March 31.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available to offer assistance. Call 1-800-892-0890 or email email@example.com.
Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.