Helping a Senior with Medicare Open Enrollment

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Every fall we receive questions about Medicare open enrollment from adult children in the area. Because many of them are not yet eligible for Medicare, they need advice on how to help their aging parent navigate through the yearly open enrollment process.

What is Medicare Open Enrollment?

For those unfamiliar with the open enrollment period, it extends from October 15 through December 7 each year. During that time, people with Medicare can change their health plan and prescription drug coverage. If you opt to make any changes, they will go into effect January 1.

To help seniors get unbiased advice and guidance, each state offers help through the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). If you feel you need more assistance in tackling this process with an aging loved one, schedule an appointment with one of these experts. You can find contacts in your area by visiting the official Medicare site. In Ohio, the hotline number is 1-800-686-1578. One word of advice is not to delay making the appointment. If you wait until the end of the open enrollment period, you may run out of time.

5 Ways to Help a Senior Loved One Navigate Medicare Open Enrollment

If you will be helping your aging parent or loved one review their plan and possibly make changes, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Begin by reviewing the variety of different health plan information sheets that come in the mail on an almost daily basis during this time. The Medicare Plan Finder is an easy way to sift through the various offerings online. Waiting until close to the end of the enrollment period can make this part of the process overwhelming. Depending on where your senior loved one lives, there are a lot of options out there. Try to make time every day or two to review and make notes on any new plan information that arrives.

2.The National Council on Aging (NCOA) suggests seniors and their family caregivers review what they refer to as the four “Cs” of Medicare coverage: cost, coverage, convenience, and customer service. Use last year’s out-of-pocket expenses and your loved one’s feelings about their current providers’ customer service to determine where adjustments might need to be made. Many centers offer Medicare workshops you may attend with your parent.

3. Your state insurance department offers information and help.

4. Medicare advises consumers to consider costs, coverage, your non-Medicare coverage, prescription drugs, doctor and hospital choice, quality of care, and travel when choosing a plan. If you need special care, such as rehab or skilled nursing, will your plan cover it? Which is best for you—traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage?

5. If your senior loved one has a tight budget, they may qualify for assistance. Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy, known as Extra Help, and Medicare Savings are two options to explore.

Prepare for Open Enrollment

If you are helping your senior loved one, make sure they have all their documents in order. They should have the information for their current plan, as well as all the identifying data they’ll need to change their plan if they want to.

For more information about topics of interest to older adults and the people who love them, read our blogs. If you’d like to learn how Optalis can help your senior loved one live a happier, healthier life,  contact us online.