FORT MYERS — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period will end on Dec. 7 — will you be one of the millions of Medicare beneficiaries who leave money on the table by not reviewing your plan?
The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida’s SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) counselors are here to help! There are several things you can do to ensure a smooth Open Enrollment Period.
First, study up! If you have a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone Part D plan, read the Annual Notice of Change (and/or your Evidence of Coverage statement). You should already have received these, as your insurance company is required to mail these notices to you every year in September.
Review these notices carefully. Check them to see if your plan’s costs have changed, if there have been updates to the plan’s benefits and coverage rules, and if the prescriptions you need are still going to be covered and at a price that fits your budget. Make sure that your providers and pharmacies are still in the plan’s network, too. If you are unhappy with any of your plan’s changes, you still have time to make a switch.
Second, call to schedule a counseling appointment by phone! Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 every year. For many beneficiaries, these 54 days will be your only opportunity to change plans for 2021.
That is where SHINE counselors come in. The Area Agency on Aging’s SHINE volunteers provide free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling and education about Medicare. SHINE experts help educate and empower Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to understand their health care options so everyone can make the best decisions to complement their health care needs.
Third, be prepared! When you speak with a SHINE counselor, make sure to have your red, white and blue Medicare Card available. This card not only includes your unique Medicare ID number, but also your coverage start dates. If you do not have a Medicare card yet, you can find your Medicare ID number on your enrollment letter from Social Security or visit ssa.gov to create an account and print a copy of your card. If you have other health insurance, you should have those cards available as well.
If you have internet access, you will also want to create a Medicare account. This is an important tool that you and your SHINE counselor will use to evaluate your options for 2021. Creating an account is easy—just visit www.Medicare.gov/plan-compare and enter some basic information about yourself. From there, you’ll create a username and password. You will want to have that login information available for your SHINE counseling session. And do not fret if you do not have internet access — a SHINE counselor should be able to help you create an account if needed.
Offered locally through the Area Agency on Aging, SHINE is a volunteer program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and part of the national SHIP Program. SHINE empowers seniors, their caregivers and family members to make informed decisions about health care coverage. Additionally, SHINE counselors can help low-income Medicare beneficiaries with applying for cost-saving programs. As part of the national Senior Medicare Patrol program, counselors also educate beneficiaries to protect, detect and report potential Medicare fraud, errors and abuse.
To learn about Medicare, register for a SHINE hosted webinar. Visit www.aaaswfl.org to view a list of upcoming webinars.
To schedule a SHINE counseling appointment by phone, call the Area Agency on Aging’s Elder Helpline at 866-413-5337 (844-41-ELDER). SHINE’s counselors look forward to talking with you!
About Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida
The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization serving Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Sarasota Counties. AAASWFL is the state’s designated Aging and Disability Resource Center for Southwest Florida. The organization is committed to connecting older adults and adults with disabilities to resources and assistance for living safely with independence and dignity. More information is available at www.aaaswfl.org or by calling the toll-free Helpline at 866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER).