POINT PLEASANT — Open enrollment for Medicare is approaching, and while it can be confusing for some, Mason County has a local advocate to help sift through the process.
Ann Dalton, executive administrative assistant with the Mason County Action Group, Inc., is the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP)/Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) counselor for Mason and Cabell counties. She is available at the Gene Salem Senior Center in Point Pleasant to give one-on-one counseling to individuals new to Medicare, and to Medicare beneficiaries.
Medicare, according to Wikipedia, is a national social insurance program, administered by the U.S. government since 1966, and currently using 30-50 private insurance companies across the U.S. under contract for administration. It typically supplies health insurance for Americans age 65 and older, as well as younger people with disabilities.
Open enrollment begins Oct. 15, although many of those eligible are already receiving information in the mail. It continues through Dec. 7 and provides a time to review current coverage and compare it with other options, according to Dalton.
During the open enrollment, participants can switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan (also called Part C); switch from an advantage plan back to the original plan; switch from a current Medicare Advantage Plan to a new one; join a Part D prescription drug plan; switch from a current prescription plan to a new one; or, do nothing and remain with current coverage.
Dalton said any changes made to coverage during the open enrollment period takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Some of the questions to consider when choosing a Medicare and prescription drug plan are:
Does the plan cover all the medication I am taking;
How much are the premium, deductible, and copay amounts;
What is the annual out-of-pocket cost for the plan;
What happens if I travel outside of the plan service area; and,
What is the plan’s star rating.
Dalton can be reached by calling the senior center at 304-675-2369. Additional information is also available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or visiting www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.