Medicare Open Enrollment, What Seniors need to Know

The Medicare Program is 50 years old.  “When the program started, many older Americans did not have coverage and many of them were living in poverty because they were having to pay out of pocket for their health insurance,” says Dr. Cara James, National Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

While the Medicare program is often a political football in terms of funding, supporter says it’s provided an important safety net for tens of millions of senior citizens in the past five decades, many of whom would have been much worse off without it. ” So I think it’s important for every Medicare beneficiary including the 1.5 million in Georgia to take a look at their plans and to see if it still meets their needs,” says Dr. James.

Dr. James is encouraging seniors nationwide to take advantage of open enrollment which began October 15 and runs through December 7.  “Many individuals may not be familiar with what Medicare covers,” she told us.

Medicare coverage comes in categories for the most part. Part A covers hospital services.  Part B is primary care coverage, doctor visits, wellness and preventative services. Part C is Medicare Advantage which is health plans you may choose to pay for services. And Part D is for prescription drugs.

Senior Citizens Inc. In Savannah is encouraging anyone new to the program to seek advice before signing up and that goes for those already on Medicare. “Some people are eligible for programs that they may not know about,” says Jenny House.

House says seniors have a lot to learn each year in terms of coverage and also about supplemental insurance plans. “There are groups out there that have this additional coverage but one size does not fit all,” she told us.

She suggests getting advice from experts like volunteers from the group Georgia Cares, which specializes in educating seniors about Medicare.  “So seniors can make the best choice and and make the best use of  their money because they’re going to be paying premiums, you might as well pay a premium for something that’s beneficial to you,” says House.

Dr. James says seniors with questions can visit the Medicare website or call 800-Medicare. She says they can also contact Georgia Cares at  866-552-4464.

Locally, there will be a sign up even for seniors on Wednesday, November 11 at the Port Wentworth Senior Center located at 103 Turnberry Street.   The even begins at 11 a.m that day and last until 2 p.m.  Representatives from Georgia Cares will be there to offer advice.

House says “what Georgia Cares is doing because they are unbiased is they look at the prescriptions that the person has, they look at the Medicare coverage that they have, and they say ‘these are the plans that would work best for you’ so they help seniors sort out a lot of the complicated stuff.”

She says seniors who plan to attend the November 11 event should bring a list of the medications they’re currently taking (with the dosage) and their Medicare card.

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