By Barry Klitsberg
Medicare is a federally run health insurance program for people who are 65 years of age or have collected Social Security Disability for 24 months. It is also available for individuals with permanent kidney failure or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
If you are not yet collecting Social Security, you have to apply for Medicare during the three-month period before your 65th birthday. You may apply for Medicare by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or online at: https://www.ssa.gov/medicare/. If you are already collecting Social Security, you will receive your Medicare card automatically in the mail.
Open enrollment starts Oct. 15
Our healthcare needs change over time, and a plan that worked for us one year may not be the best choice going forward. Each year Medicare gives participants the opportunity to modify their healthcare plan during open enrollment season, which runs every year from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Navigating Medicare and choosing a plan that best meets your needs can be tricky, so it is important to carefully consider your foreseeable health care needs each year. FCA can help you with this process with free guidance (more on that later).
To avoid any unpleasant and potentially expensive surprises, make sure to study any materials that come to you from your existing plan. These documents will spell out in detail the updates for the coming plan year.
Some of these revisions may describe premium changes, updates in prescription formularies (which may change the availability or price of your previously covered drugs), co-payment changes and changes to networks of providers. Make sure to check that your healthcare providers are still part of your plan each year.
If you feel that these changes make your plan a less-than-optimal choice for the coming year, now is the time to reevaluate and compare available plans. This can be done through the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov. You can review your current plan and compare it with others that serve Nassau County to see if another plan works better for you.
Free Help Available Through FCA
If you don’t have ready access to a computer or otherwise need assistance, Family and Children’s Association can help guide you through the process with free help available by calling the Nassau County Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program at 516-485-3754.
One of our counselors will be happy to assist you. HIICAP is a free service that has trained counselors who can provide you with unbiased expertise on what Medicare plan can best meet your individual needs. HIICAP counselors can also help you switch plans, in many cases over the phone. In-personfca appointments are also available.
For Medicare beneficiaries who are in a Medicare Advantage Plan (HMO or PPO) and don’t change their plan by Dec. 7, they have an additional opportunity to switch Medicare Advantage plans between January 1 and March 31.
FCA can help. Answers to your Medicare questions are just a phone call away.
Barry Klitsberg is an Assistant Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Coordinator at FCA in Garden City and an Aging Services Program Specialist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.