By Jesse Gamez / For The Herald
The annual Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan open enrollment period is traditionally a time for educational events, classes and one-on-one meetings, but this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, there are some new and different ways to learn about Medicare.
Open enrollment started Oct. 15 and continues until Dec. 7, allowing millions of people eligible for Medicare to review the latest information about available health plans for 2021. In Washington state alone, nearly 1.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare, including almost 514,000 with Medicare Advantage.
There are resources to help you choose the plan that’s right for you without having to leave home, including informational websites, virtual educational events and one-on-one virtual meetings with sales agents. At the same time, it’s important to safely access Medicare information online while protecting your personal information and avoiding fake offers and other scams.
Here are some tips for how to prepare for the Medicare fall open enrollment period:
1. Use an online tool: Go to the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov to compare plans, benefits and an estimated cost for each plan based on an average member.
If you are interested in Medicare Part D, which helps cover the cost of prescription medications, you can also enter the names of prescription medications you take to ensure those medications are covered by the plan you are considering. You can enroll directly on Medicare.gov.
On Medicare.gov, you can also learn about and enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes called Part C or MA Plans, and you can also visit an insurance company’s website to learn more about what they offer. Insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans can provide you with detailed information about their plans and services, plus prescription pricing information and other benefits. You can also check to see if your primary care physician or other providers are in-network with the Medicare Advantage plan.
2. Sign up for a virtual education workshop: Many insurance companies are offering online workshops to review 2021 Medicare Advantage plan options. Also, check to see if you can set up a virtual one-on-one meeting with an insurance company sales agent, either by phone or video chat. Before you attend a virtual event or meeting, find out in advance how to log on to the meeting to avoid technical issues. It’s a good idea to also prepare a list of questions so that you can ensure you get the information you need. Does the plan include vision, hearing and dental coverage? Will telehealth services be covered? Is transportation to your medical appointments included?
3. Protect yourself against Medicare scams: The federal Medicare agency has warned that scammers may try to use the pandemic to steal Medicare beneficiaries’ Medicare numbers, banking information or other personal data. Scammers may try to reach out to you by phone, email, text message, social media or by visiting your home. Only give your Medicare number to your doctor, pharmacist, hospital, health insurer or other trusted health care provider. Do not click links in text messages and emails about covid-19 from unknown sources and hang up on unsolicited phone calls offering covid-19 tests or supplies.
If you are not comfortable accessing plan information online, Medicare.gov has an option for setting up a phone call.
For more information, go to Medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). For more information about Humana plans, you can go to www.Humana.com/Medicare or speak with a licensed Humana sales agent by calling 800-213-5286 (TTY: 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
Jesse Gamez is Intermountain Medicare President at Humana in Washington.