Check your coverage: Medicare open enrollment starts Oct. 15

It’s almost time for local residents who are 65 and older to choose which Medicare plan they want in the coming year.

More than 2.3 million Ohioans are covered by Medicare, the federal health insurance program for those 65 and older, some people with disabilities and those with end-stage renal disease.

From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, those covered by the program can make a change if they want to a different type of Medicare plan for 2020.

Even if your Medicare plan works for you now, experts say it’s important to review your options carefully each open enrollment season. Your medical needs or financial situation might have changed since last year, and the benefits that come with the different plans can change each year.

MORE: Cheaper prices, more competition ahead for Ohio ACA exchanges in 2020

“Medicare health and prescription drug plans often change year-to-year, which is why it is so important to look at your options every year and make a change if necessary,” said Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment.

Those with Medicare should have just received a notice in the mail with any changes to their current plans, said Nate Epp, account executive with Horan’s Individual Health & Medicare team, whose services include brokering Medicare plans in the Dayton area.

Epp said his team has so far seen some changes in price and coverage for the upcoming year, such as $80 plan is being cancelled and those enrollees being moved to a $30 unless they make a switch.

“Every year during open enrollment, it’s really important that you at least look at the options available,” Epp said.

He said cost isn’t the only thing people should consider. Users should look at what kind of coverage they are getting, such as whether all the medications they take are covered and whether their doctor is in network.

MORE: Health rankings place Warren County among state’s best

“So even if it’s a more expensive plan, maybe that’s a good move,” Epp said. “Part of our research is to evaluate, ‘Is that higher premium giving them better coverage or not?’”

Sorting through the different plan options can be complicated and Epp recommends working with an adviser who knows the process.

The most commonly sold Medicare supplement, Plan F, is getting phased out on Jan. 1., so if you don’t already have Plan F then you won’t be able to buy one starting 2020. The plan was blamed for promoting overuse of health care services. Plan F is a secondary insurance plan picks up the expenses that original Medicare plan leaves patients responsible for.

Epp said he doesn’t recommend rushing to buy a Plan F plan before they are phased out, because he expects the prices to climb and there are alternatives available.

“People are trying to run in and get Plan F before it goes away but once we look at the rates and compare it to another plan, the rates for Plan F are actually increasing. Long term, I don’t think its a good plan to get F before it goes away,” he said.

Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, a division of Ohio Department of Insurance, will hold a series of “Medicare Check-Up Day” events around the state to provide information about open enrollment. 

Those with questions who are unable to attend a Medicare Check-Up Day event can call the state at 1-800-686-1578, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information, including specific plan details, is available at www.medicare.gov.

Enrollees can decide between original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Original Medicare plans are managed by the federal government, and typically those with traditional Medicare also buy supplemental coverage to cover things like prescription drugs.

Another option is to buy a Medicare Advantage plan, which is an insurance plan managed by a commercial insurance company.

Just under 1.5 million Ohioans have original Medicare and about 860,000 have Medicare Advantage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

During open enrollment, Froment warned Ohioans to be aware of predatory sales practices and Medicare scams, which can pick up this time of year.

No one should be calling or knocking on doors and saying they are with Medicare or asking for any kind of payment or personal information. The only contact seniors should get will be from someone calling back or contacting them about a scheduled appointment.

If consumers suspect wrongdoing, they should call the department’s Fraud and Enforcement hotline at 1-800-686-1527 or the Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-488-6070.

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