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You can learn to navigate Medicare

By Christina Knoell
Special to The SUN

Medicare is complicated. It is important that you know your rights, options, deadlines, possible penalties and where to find the information you need.

Did you know that assistance is available in Pagosa Springs through the nationwide State Health Insurance Program (SHIP)? Trained and certified Medicare navigators are available by appointment to guide you when dealing with Medicare enrollment, questions and problems.

SHIP has been available in Archuleta County at the Senior Center for more than 12 years under the auspices of Archuleta County. The San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is the sponsoring agency for free Medicare services at the Senior Center (located in  the community center). Please call 264-0502 to make an appointment.

Medicare eligibility begins at age 65. Three months before your birth month, you can enroll in Medicare and start making decisions about your options. Some of the things you need to consider are:

Are you eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B? Do you need both?

Do you have a retirement plan that will work with Medicare?

Do you want a Medicare supplement (also called Medigap)?

Would you prefer coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan or cost plan? Do you want a Part D drug plan? If so, which plan would work best for you? This varies depending on what prescriptions you take.

It is important to know enrollment deadlines to avoid penalties.

The SHIP navigators offer a Medicare 101 class every few months to help you get started and provide you with important information. The next class will be held at the Archuleta Senior Center (at the community center) on July 17 at 10 a.m. Please call 264-0502 to reserve a spot, as spaces are limited.

Generally, you can enroll in Medicare online at www.ssa.gov or by calling Social Security Administration. If you are already receiving a Social Security check, you will be automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B, but will need to enroll in Part D yourself. You can also find valuable information at www.medicare.gov.

If you are already on Medicare and have a Part D drug plan, you need to review that plan each year during the open enrollment period, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, as plan premiums and coverage of drugs change each year. SHIP navigators are available to help during that time, or you can go to www.medicare.gov to review your plan.

If you are receiving Social Security disability, you will probably be eligible for Medicare starting 23 months after your disability begins and will have a limited time period to enroll in a Part D drug plan.

This story was posted on July 3, 2014.