The Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2013 is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is the time for beneficiaries to review their current coverage to make sure it will continue to meet their needs, and if necessary, examine and enroll in other coverage options. The good news is that Medicare offers plenty of options, but the bad news is that those options often can be overwhelming and confusing. Getting the right insurance coverage for you or a loved one isn't always easy, but it is crucial to ensure you get the care you need at a price you can afford.
In addition to changes in your health or the medications you take, it is time to consider any changes your plan provider may have made in coverage for this year, including changes in prescription drug coverage. During Medicare's Open Enrollment, you can:
- Enroll in a Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or change plans.
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan or change plans.
- Return to Original Medicare.
If you choose Original Medicare, you can opt to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan to pay for some uncovered expenses. You also may add a Part D Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to Original Medicare. While you do not have to enroll in a prescription plan when you are first eligible, you may pay a penalty if you choose to enroll later.
Given the range of options available, Lt. Governor and State Insurance Director Mary Taylor encourages folks to seek assistance. "Determining the appropriate Medicare coverage should be done with the help of a family member or a knowledgeable and trusted advisor such as a representative from our OSHIIP program. This should be a careful, deliberate process so you secure a plan that best meets your healthcare needs and budget."
For 20 years, the Ohio Department of Insurance's Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, or OSHIIP, has been Medicare's designated educational program for Ohio beneficiaries, family members and health care professionals. You can call OSHIIP at 1-800-686-1578 with questions and to get free enrollment assistance. The Medicare Check-up and Open Enrollment Toolkit, which includes a list of plans, financial assistance information and an events schedule, is available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Medicare offers an online tool www.medicare.gov to help you determine which plan best meets your needs. There you can check the deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and premiums, and you can compare up to three plans at a time.
Plan providers and their representatives can be a good source of information, but Taylor urges Ohioans to watch for predatory sales practices during annual enrollment. Insurance agents are prohibited from using high pressure sales tactics, conducting door-to-door sales for Medicare Advantage plans or representing themselves as official representatives of Medicare. Also, Medicare reminds everyone to treat your Medicare number as you do your social security number and credit card information. Never give it out to someone who has visited your home uninvited or has made an unsolicited phone call selling Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who see predatory practices should contact Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.
The staff of Boomerang thank the Ohio Department of Insurance for contributing to this article.
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