Help available for seniors considering changes during Medicare’s open enrollment period
The annual open enrollment began Saturday and runs through Dec. 7. The state offers free counseling and information through its SHINE program and local branches of the Area Agency on Aging.
Seniors now have a few weeks to make changes to their Medicare plans, and for those decisions, there’s help from Florida’s SHINE program.
The annual open enrollment began Saturday and runs through Dec. 7.
SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) is a free program offered by the state Department of Elder Affairs and local branches of the Area Agency on Aging.
SHINE volunteers are trained to counsel consumers with Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance questions. Services are free, unbiased and confidential.
Click here to set up a counseling session, or call 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337).
SHINE also offers online classes on Medicare. Click here for a schedule and details.
Senior Resource Alliance administers the program in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Brevard counties. Alliance President and CEO Karla Radka said there’s “an army of SHINE volunteers” ready to assist with Medicare questions.
“What they can expect is service with care, with compassion and with a lot of knowledge,” she said.
The enrollment period gives people 65 and older with Medicare the opportunity to make changes to their health or prescription drug plan, pick a private Medicare Advantage plan, or return to original Medicare (Part A and B).
Among the changes this year are a $35 copay cap on insulin for all Advantage and Part D prescription plans and 100% coverage for certain vaccines, including for shingles.
Also, Americans will pay 3% less next year on monthly premiums for the Part B plan, which covers routine doctors’ visits and other outpatient care. It’s a savings of $5.20 for most people.
Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are offered by private insurance companies. Kaiser Family Foundation research shows that the percentage of beneficiaries choosing an Advantage plan has increased from 19% in 2007 to 48% this year.
A KFF review evaluating 62 other studies found that seniors with Advantage and traditional Medicare “reported similar rates of satisfaction with their care and overall measures of care coordination.”
As for traditional Medicare, the review found that fewer had cost-related problems, especially those with supplemental coverage. The traditional enrollees without that additional coverage had the most affordability problems.
Those on traditional Medicare also tended to receive care “in the highest-rated hospitals for cancer care or in the highest-quality skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies.”
Go to floridashine.org for more information, including counseling sites and Medicare resources.
Or, visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY: 1-877-486-2048.
Information from Kaiser Health News, WMFE’s Joe Byrnes and the Associated Press was used in this report.