Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period New in 2019
SHINE/SMP counselors provide a free, local service to help evaluate Medicare Advantage Plans through the end of Part C Open Enrollment on March 31
"Medicare Advantage open enrollment gives beneficiaries with buyer's remorse an opportunity to switch plans," explains Camilita Aldridge, SHINE Manager at the Area Agency on Aging (AAASWFL). "In past years, folks with Medicare Advantage had just six weeks switch back to Original Medicare. Now, they have three full months to either switch back or choose a more suitable Advantage plan."
AAASWFL's SHINE counselors are available to help beneficiaries evaluate their choices during Medicare Advantage open enrollment. Volunteer SHINE counselors provide free, unbiased, and personalized assistance with Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug plans, and long-term care insurance options. SHINE is a program of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and part of the national SHIP Program.
Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes called Part C plans, are typically HMOs or PPOs offered by private insurance companies. They cover all of the services offered by Original Medicare but typically work with a network of local providers. Most Part C plans also provide prescription drug coverage.
This year, many Medicare Advantage plans are offering more supplemental benefits than in the past. Thanks to changes in Medicare, nearly half of the plans available are now offering coverage for items like transportation services, nicotine replacement therapy, and even over-the-counter medications. While these new benefits can be enticing, not everyone needs them.
"Many times, people enroll in a Part C plan because they heard rave reviews from a friend or neighbor, but we all have different needs," explains Aldridge. "Depending on your doctor, your medical conditions, your prescriptions, and your budget, there might be a better plan for you. Our counselors can help you evaluate all of the plans available to you, and the service is completely free."
Beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in Part C plans may switch plans once during the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. However, people who are currently enrolled in Original Medicare may not take advantage of this new open enrollment period.
SHINE empowers seniors, their caregivers, and family members to make informed decisions about health care coverage. SHINE counselors can also help beneficiaries understand benefits available through Medicare, like preventative health care services. Additionally, SHINE counselors assist low-income Medicare beneficiaries with applying for cost-savings programs and educate beneficiaries to protect, detect, and report potential errors, fraud, and abuse with their Medicare coverage.
AAASWFL provides SHINE counseling services at locations across Southwest Florida. To make an appointment with a SHINE counselor, call AAASWFL's toll-free Elder Helpline at 1-866-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER)
Currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization serving Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Sarasota Counties. The organization is committed to connecting older adults (ages 60 and over) and people with disabilities to resources and assistance for living safely with independence and dignity. AAASWFL is the state's designated Aging and Disability Resource Center for Southwest Florida. More information is available at http://www.aaaswfl.org.