With just one month left in the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ SHINE program is reminding Florida Medicare beneficiaries to carefully evaluate their health care needs.
Every year, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to make changes to their Medicare Prescription Drug or Medicare Advantage Plans during the enrollment period, which ends December 31.
SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) encourages Medicare beneficiaries to review their benefits for a variety of reasons. Individuals often experience subtle changes in their health over the course of the year, which may change the kind of care they need.
This could directly affect their need for more or less health insurance, the types of prescription drugs they require or their access to particular doctors or pharmacies.
Such health changes can also increase costs for beneficiaries, which can be particularly critical for Medicare beneficiaries on fixed incomes.
SHINE counselors provide free, unbiased one-on-one insurance counseling and community education regarding Medicare options and prescription drug assistance for elders, their family and caregivers.
“With our changing economic climate it's more important than ever for Medicare beneficiaries to make the most of their benefits, enroll in any savings programs for which they qualify, and review their current coverage,” said SHINE Director Alexandra Kruse. “Our volunteer counselors throughout the state can help seniors assess their eligibility for prescription savings programs and whether or not changes to coverage or benefits would lower their costs.”
When beneficiaries review their Medicare coverage, they should remember to Prepare, Compare and Decide.
PREPARE: Medicare enrollees should gather all the information they need to compare and make decisions about health and prescription drug coverage. For instance, they should gather a list of medications, a list of providers (including doctors and pharmacies), and any notices they have received from Social Security or Medicare about changes for next year. This can make comparing plans a simpler and effective process.
COMPARE: Seniors should compare their plans against others available locally to be sure their current coverage is still providing them with essential benefits. As beneficiaries review and compare plans, they should consider whether they are satisfied with the cost, coverage and customer service they currently receive. Seniors can compare all options and search for plans in their area by visiting the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov. Those who need assistance are encouraged to contact the SHINE program by calling Florida’s toll-free Elder Helpline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337) and asking for a SHINE volunteer counselor.
DECIDE: The final step for each individual is deciding which plan is right. To switch plans, beneficiaries should contact the plans they want to join. Beneficiaries are encouraged to act quickly so they may have a smooth transition into the 2009 benefit year. People with Medicare can receive help reviewing and enrolling in a plan by attending a Medicare Annual Enrollment event or contacting Medicare’s trained customer service representatives at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). SHINE also provides enrollment assistance via one-on-one counseling over the phone or in person at designated counseling sites and at enrollment events in