The annual enrollment period for Medicare Advantage plans and stand-alone drug plans is here.
You can enroll or make a change through Dec. 7. Any change you make would take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period during the year or are eligible for Medicaid or the Extra Help program, this is the only time you can make a change to your coverage for 2013.
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs' Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders or SHINE program provides free, unbiased counseling and information for individuals eligible for Medicare, their families and caregivers. SHINE counselors are trained to assist you in understanding your options so that you can make informed decisions.
When you meet with a SHINE counselor by phone or in person, they will begin by asking you about your income to determine whether or not you might be eligible for Extra Help, which helps reduce the cost of your prescriptions, or a Medicaid program.
If you are looking for a drug plan, we will ask you to provide a list of all the prescriptions you take, as well as the dosage and the frequency for each medication.
If you are searching for the best Medicare Advantage plan, there are some questions you can ask in advance that will help to narrow your choices in finding a plan that fits best:
'¢ Will the plan allow you to continue using your present doctors?
'¢ If you had to go to the hospital, would your hospital of choice be included in the plan's network?
'¢ Will you need a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist?
'¢ Do you desire to have coverage when traveling?
'¢ Does the plan offer extra benefits like vision, dental, hearing aids, and gym membership?
'¢ Are the drugs you presently take part of the plan's formulary and what will they cost?
'¢ What is the plan's monthly premium, as well as co-payments for doctor visits, etc.?
Comparing the different plans using the answers to these questions will help you arrive at the best choice for you. A SHINE counselor can help you find available plans in your area and can assist you with any questions.
Once your decision has been made, you will have one opportunity in 2013 to disenroll from your MA plan during the annual disenrollment period. The ADP runs from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14. During this period, you will be able to leave the MA plan you chose and return to original Medicare (Part A and Part B).
You will also be able to enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan at the same time. The effective date will be the first of the following month. So if you made the changes during January, your effective date for the change will be Feb. 1. You would again be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during the next annual enrollment period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7, 2013).
A SHINE counselor is waiting to assist you with your choices. The counselor will not make any decisions for you, but will guide you through the comparison process so you can make an educated choice.
Call the Elder Helpline toll-free at (800) 96-ELDER (800-963-5337) to contact a SHINE counselor or for information about volunteering with SHINE.
Lynne Meagher is the Brevard County SHINE area coordinator. Contact her at (321) 752-8080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.