Q: My friend convinced me to join her Medicare plan, but my costs have been very high this year. What do I need to know about open enrollment for Medicare for next year?

A: It is common for friends to share information about their health plans and, while this is well intentioned, every person’s healthcare and medication needs are different. I often get calls from people in a similar situation who find out their medication or doctor is no longer covered because they switched plans on recommendation of a friend.

Thankfully, the open enrollment period for Medicare is about to begin. It runs from October 15th through December 7th. During this time, you can change your plan for 2023.

In order to be sure your plan is best for your specific needs, I recommend you speak with a professional. The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) is a national program funded through the Older Americans Act to provide free and unbiased counseling and comparisons on all Medicare Health Insurance and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans. The HICAP program also resolves Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug complaints for Medicare beneficiaries.

Locally, you can reach the HICAP program in Ventura County by calling 805-477-7310 or in Los Angeles County by calling 213-383-4519. You can schedule an appointment to discuss your specific health care and insurance needs, and receive unbiased advice and guidance.

When you meet with a HICAP counselor they will first ask you to provide a list of all your medications. Each plan has a different list of covered drugs, and you want to be sure the plan you select will be the lowest cost for your medication needs. They will run your information through the Medicare system and provide you with a comparison chart of the three plans that are most cost effective for you.

Senior Concerns, as part of its commitment to provide support and education for seniors and family caregivers, will present a virtual seminar titled “Medicare Basics.” This free seminar will be held via Zoom from 3:00-4:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 29, 2022. You can register here https://www.seniorconcerns.org/seminars/

This informative seminar will provide detailed information on how to enroll in Medicare, how the Medicare Program works, the components of Medicare, and details about Medicare’s Open Enrollment period. The seminar will be presented by George Lopez, a HICAP counselor with the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.

Even if you are currently satisfied with your healthcare pan, it is always good to compare plans each year during the open enrollment period. Every year plans change what they cover, so it is important to recheck your coverage and especially your medication needs.

Be proactive about your health insurance plan and needs. Make it an annual activity to compare plans and ensure you make the best selection for your needs. Share this with your friends so they can join a seminar or speak with a professional as well. Each one of us has different health care needs, and therefore, we need to find the plan that best covers and supports our health in the coming year.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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