Medicare Open Enrollment kicks off, volunteers ready to assist

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Medicare open enrollment got underway Oct. 15, meaning it is time to review plans and drug coverage for those who are Medicare eligible.

 

Medicare open enrollment got underway Oct. 15, meaning it is time to review plans and drug coverage for those who are Medicare eligible.

In Harvey County, there is volunteer help available — though less than in the past.

In the past, more than 700 Harvey County residents  saved more than $500,000 in combined savings year through the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) program. The program allows a volunteer to assist in the review of part D plans.

This year the Harvey County Department on Aging will not be able to offer the service — the main provider of that service for a number of years, Wenda Black, retired this year.

"This year, I did not have enough time for training. I started this in July," said Christy Estrada, who will be in charge of SHICK in the Department on Aging next year. "In the extension office they have some volunteers. Next year we will be back doing it. ... I have got so many phone calls, so I am sending them all down there. I a sure they will be bombarded, but I am sure they will be able to do that."

The Harvey County Kansas State Research and Extension Office will offer SHICK counseling for Medicare Part D through Dec, 7. Appointments are encouraged and can be made by calling 316-284-6930. The extension office also refers those seeking SHICK counseling to Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton (316-284-2900), the Halstead Senior Center (316-835-2283). Hesston Senior Service (620-327-5099), the Sedgwick Senior Center (316-772-0393) and Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Newton (316-283-6410).

Telephone only appointments are available by calling 316-772-3177.

Volunteers can help via phone, zoom and email if in-person meetings are not possible.

Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) is a free program offering Medicare-eligible Harvey County residents the opportunity to talk with trained community volunteers and get answers to questions about Medicare and other insurance issues. SHICK volunteers work with clients to compare prescription programs and identify the plan that will meet their needs while save hundreds of dollars annually.  

The Medicare Open Enrollment period occurs every year from October 15 through December 7, with coverage changes taking effect January 1. During this time, people can find a plan that better meets their needs, saves money, or both.

“This is an important time of year for 63 million Medicare beneficiaries across the country to compare coverage options to ensure they are getting the best benefits available at low cost,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We will continue to strengthen and build upon this critical program that has vastly improved the lives of our seniors. I encourage everyone to take stock of their health and find the best plan for them in 2022.”

Medicare plans can change year to year – even an enrollee’s current calendar year 2021 plan may have changes for 2022. Medicare.gov makes it easier than ever to compare coverage options and shop for plans. People can do a side-by-side comparison of plan coverage, costs, and quality ratings to help them more easily see the differences between plans.

“Medicare Open Enrollment is an important time of year for people with Medicare and their families to review their options and make choices about the health care coverage that best meets their needs,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “It is also a time for people with Medicare to check their eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs, which can help with premiums and other costs. Enrollment assistance is available in your community and 24/7 at 1-800-MEDICARE to connect you to coverage that best fits your needs and budget.”

Here are some things to consider when shopping for Medicare coverage:

·       Check if doctors are still in-network and prescriptions are on the plan’s formulary.

·       Realize that the plan with the lowest monthly premium may not always be the best fit for specific health needs.

·       Look at the plan’s deductible and other out-of-pocket costs that factor into total costs.

·       Know that some plans offer extra benefits, like vision, hearing, or dental coverage, which could help meet individual health care needs.

·       Consider whether Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan is the best choice.