News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Navigating Medicare during open enrollment

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare is underway, and runs till December 7.

The Medicare maze can be confusing, leaving older adults unsure what they need and what they should do — if anything at all. Local counseling is available to help seniors in Sisters successfully navigate that

maze.

Linda Alldredge of Country Financial in Sisters urges people to act early and get help evaluating what they already have so that they can make informed and stress-free decisions.

“It’s all about knowing what they’ve got and knowing if they want to make a change,” she said.

Alldredge noted that there is a lot of pressure at this time of year leading seniors to think that a change is required. That’s not the case — if you already have the coverage you need.

“Advertisement makes you think you need to make a decision every year — and you don’t,” Alldredge said. “See if it makes sense for you to shop.”

She also offers tips on the mechanics of “shopping” for Medicare. Alldredge offers consultation in her office or over the phone — whatever you’re comfortable

with.

During the Medicare open enrollment period, you can:

•?Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (as long as you’re enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B, and you live in the Medicare Advantage plan’s service area).

•?Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare (plus a Medicare Part D plan, and possibly a Medigap plan).

•?Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.

•?Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another.

•?Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible for

Medicare.

Council on Aging of Central Oregon also offers consultation. One-on-one phone sessions are provided by Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) certified volunteers, and they help Medicare plan enrollees to reevaluate their coverage – whether it’s Original Medicare with supplemental drug coverage, or Medicare Advantage – and make changes or purchase new policies if they want to do so.

“Understanding your Medicare benefits is an essential component of staying physically and financially healthy during the aging process,” said Council on Aging Executive Director Susan Rotella. “Our team of certified Medicare counselors are ready to help tri-county seniors get the right Medicare coverage for their needs.”

Medicare covers many medical costs, including visits to the doctor, prescription medications, and preventive care, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, diabetes treatment, and blood pressure screenings. Enrollment in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) or a prescription drug plan (Part D) must be completed by December 7, for coverage to begin without interruption on Jan. 1, 2022.

Contact Linda Alldredge at Country Financial: 178 S. Elm St. Ste. 100, Sisters, 541-549-6946.

Contact the Council on Aging of Central Oregon at 541-678-5483, extension 211. Callers will be asked to leave a message, which will be returned by a certified Medicare counselor, usually by the end of the next business day.

 

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