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Navigating Medicare Open Enrollment

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

Q: I have been receiving flyers almost daily from insurance companies promoting their Medicare plans. I usually toss them in the trash without even looking over the information. I have good insurance through my husband’s retirement benefits package, so why am I getting these?

A: The Medicare Open Enrollment period is now through December 7. During this time, insurance companies are marketing their products in hopes of signing up new members. The companies are not allowed to call or come to someone’s residence unless invited. You will probably continue to receive additional mailings during November. If you have coverage such as retiree insurance, you have a different Open Enrollment period, and we encourage you to call the plan administrator for assistance or information.

We always suggest Medicare beneficiaries should spend time reviewing their current plan to make sure it is still their best option for medical and drug coverage in the coming year. Anyone currently enrolled in Medicare should be watching their mail for an “Evidence of Coverage” or “Annual Notice of Changes” packet of information. This is important because companies have the right to make changes in coverage every year. A plan that met all of someone’s needs one year may not necessarily meet their needs the following year.

If you are comfortable doing research online, go to www.Medicare.gov to use the Medicare Plan Finder that allows you to compare coverage of plans available in your area. You can check if your current plan still covers the medications you are taking, physicians and hospitals of your choice are still participating, and are costs involved are affordable. If you decide to stay with your current plan, no action needs to be taken as long as the plan is still available.

If you still have questions or need help navigating the Medicare system, there is help available. Each state has a State Health Insurance Assistance Program. In Massachusetts, the program is called SHINE (1-800-243-4636). SHINE counselors are trained and certified by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs. They offer free, unbiased information to Medicare beneficiaries or their family members and assist them in making the best decisions regarding insurance options.

SHINE counselors are knowledgeable about Medicare A&B, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement plans and Prescription Drug plans. If a SHINE counselor is not available, call 1-800-Medicare (633-4227) to speak with a representative.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.