Area Agency on Aging: Open enrollment for Part D and other supplements

By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the regional long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

The annual period to review Medicare Part D plans and enroll in or switch Medicare Advantage or other supplement plans began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. The new plans take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

SJBAAA offers Medicare counseling over the phone during the pandemic with Zoom or other video options available. Call the number below to schedule an appointment or ask basic questions. 

Even if you are satisfied with your prescription drug plan (Part D), it is recommended that you check the plans every year, because premiums and drug prices change, as well as the companies involved. SHIP counselors help you compare plans and enroll with the same simple online form at Medicare.gov for switching to any company that covers your prescriptions for lower annual costs. 

For example, one Part D company this year has a premium of $7.30 and another raises its premiums every year but offers different lower-cost plans to those who bother checking and comparing prescription costs.

Rocky Mountain Health Plans, now a UnitedHealthcare Company, has notified enrolled beneficiaries that it no longer offers cost plans in Archuleta County, although it has more options for some Western Slope counties. Instead, for the 20 percent in health care costs that Original Medicare does not cover, people might want to enroll in a “Medigap” supplement with A, B, D, G, K, L, M or N benefit plans. The area also has a few Medicare Advantage plan options, which replace Original Medicare. SHIP counselors can explain these choices but do not do the actual enrolling. They have a new nonpublic tool for comparing local prices for plans through national Medigap companies.

Another open enrollment period occurs annually to change Medicare Advantage plans or return to Original Medicare with a separate Part D plan. The Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment is Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021.

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.

This story was posted on October 25, 2020.