By Betsy Zuber
It’s that time of year again. Medicare supplemental insurance plans open enrollment time.
Open enrollment happens Oct. 15, 2018 through Dec. 7, 2018. This is your opportunity to make changes to your existing plan or investigate a new plan. There is so much information available and there are changes to plans new and existing that it might feel like being back in school and doing your homework. You may also see postcards or other announcements come via the mail to tell you about plans being offered.
So here is how it works: If you have Medicare, you are eligible to change your supplemental plan once a year during the open enrollment period, or you can just keep your old one and let it roll over into the new year. But for some people, their old plans have had benefit changes, are no longer being offered or have monthly premium changes.
One of the ways to explore what is out there is by going to the Medicare.gov website and comparing plans. This website tool will bring up the entire available supplemental plan options, many including prescription drug-coverage in your ZIP code and give you a quick overview of premiums, co-pays and top plan features. After looking at the overview page, you can click on one of the plans and you will find more information on the details of the plan. You can even apply online on this website. This can take some time to review the multiple plans that are offered, and offers the ability to personally contact the plan provider if you have any further questions.
Another way some people get information is to use an insurance broker to help you to review plans that are offered. You may already use one that helps with other kinds of insurance such as life insurance, car, and home. They may also have an expert in their office that can discuss Medicare supplemental insurance plans.
One more way to have assisted help in finding a supplemental plan is to use the State Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) by calling and setting up an appointment with one of their volunteers. We have a volunteer who comes to Mercer Island Youth and family Services and uses our offices here at Luther Burbank Park twice monthly. Just call 206-275-7752 to schedule an appointment. If the appointments are full, then there are other SHIBA volunteers available at multiple sites around King County, and you can call the local regional office at 206-727-6221 or go to the SHIBA website at https://soundgenerations.org/get-help/insurance-legal/insurance-advice/.
For many people, they have the option to buy a supplemental plan that is connected with their retirement from a company such as Boeing. These plans are not offered to the general public, only to eligible retirees. And even though there is the option of changing plans every year during open enrollment, once you leave a retirement plan, you may not be able to go back a year later and re-enroll with them.
So there are a lot of options to choose from and decisions to make regarding supplemental health care plans to Medicare. Which plan is the right one for you? Your spouse? And how do you predict your health care future? What will you need to be covered for the next year? These are all questions that you try to answer in order to help you pick a plan that best suits your future needs. And remember, that you can change your plan again next year during the open enrollment period which will probably be middle of October 2019 or early December 2019.
Betsy Zuber is the Geriatric Specialist for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, a department of the City of Mercer Island. She provides social services to anyone who lives on Mercer Island 60+ and their families. You can reach her at 206-275-7752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.