Now is the time to research for Medicare open enrollment

As the Medicare open enrollment period approaches, the more than 2 million Ohioan who are covered with the health insurance program are urged to carefully review their prescription drug and health insurance options to ensure their plan fits their needs and budget.

Open enrollment for the 2021 plan year starts Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.

“We want to empower Ohioans to make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage. These webinars are a great place to start planning for the upcoming year, and we are here to help consumers with any additional questions they might have,” Department of Insurance Interim Director Tynesia Dorsey said.

During Medicare’s annual open enrollment, Ohioans can:

• Stay on Original Medicare and shop for a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

• Select a Medicare Advantage Plan, which provides comprehensive health benefits, typically including prescription drug coverage. Part D and Medicare Advantage plans can change every year. The plan that was best for you in 2020 may not be the best plan for you in 2021.

• Determine if their existing coverage will continue to meet their health insurance needs.

This is the first open enrollment period that people with End- Stage Kidney Failure may enroll into a Medicare Advantage plan for 2021.

Costs and coverage can be significantly impacted by which plan a beneficiary chooses. The U.S. Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services encourages beneficiaries to shop around each enrollment season in case the best option has changed.

However, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation of the open enrollment periods between 2007 and 2016, found 8% of Medicare Advantage enrollees and 10% of prescription drug plan enrollees voluntarily switched to another plan during open enrollment.

There are an average of 28 Medicare Advantage plans and 28 stand-alone Part D plans available to beneficiaries in 2020. Beneficiaries have dozens of plan options from which to choose. The researchers with the foundation stated that relatively low rates of plan switching during the open enrollment period could indicate that beneficiaries are generally satisfied with their current plans and are not motivated to switch. Or they may be choosing to remain in their plans after shopping around.

Or it could be that people stay with their existing plans because it is too complicated to compare new options. Low switching rates find the process of comparing plans too challenging, are unaware of the open enrollment period, or have limited confidence in their ability to choose a better plan, the Kaiser researchers wrote in their analysis, published Dec. 2. Both Medicare Advantage and stand-alone drug plans can vary significantly in terms of premiums, deductibles, cost sharing, provider and/or pharmacy networks, and drugs covered, among other plan features.

Be careful of fraud

Medicare open enrollment season is a time that traditionally draws out scammers and predatory sales tactics.

During open enrollment, Dorsey said in a statement that Ohioans need to be aware of predatory sales practices and Medicare scams, such as unsolicited calls from scammers asking for personal information, such as your Social Security number or Medicare number.

If someone comes to your home without a scheduled appointment, do not let the individual in your home or provide him or her with personal information.

Medicare representatives do not make house calls or solicit beneficiaries by telephone.

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.

According to Ohio Department of Insurance, insurance agents are not allowed to:

• Engage in high-pressure sales tactics.

• Send unsolicited emails.

• Collect names, addresses and enrollment applications or conduct sales presentations at a health fair or promotional event.

• Sell products which are not health-related during a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan sales or marketing presentation.

• Provide meals at promotional and sales events.

• Sell products in health care settings (doctors offices, pharmacies, etc.).

• Make misrepresentations or omit information about a comparative Medicare product to induce a person to purchase or change their insurance.

• Solicit door-to-door.

How to get help with Medicare questions

The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, a division of the Department of Insurance, will conduct Virtual Medicare Check-Up Day webinars prior to the start of open enrollment.

Webinars will be held Monday through Thursday, Sept. 14 through Oct. 14. Sessions are available at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day with an additional 6 p.m. session on Wednesdays. Monday webinars will focus on MyCare Ohio plans.

To view a complete listing of Medicare Check-Up Day webinars, visit OSHIIP’s Registration page

Medicare beneficiaries may also schedule a one-on-one counseling virtual session with an OSHIIP representative through our online scheduling portal

Those unable to attend a Medicare Check-Up webinar can contact OSHIIP at 1-800-686-1578, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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