SHINE counselors can help during Medicare Open Enrollment

Colleen Morrissey is Volunteer and  Outreach Manager at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services.

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment period starts in October. If you receive health insurance through Medicare that means it’s a good time to review your coverage– and possibly get in touch with a volunteer SHINE Counselor.

Medicare Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and in most cases it is the only time participants can adjust their coverage for the coming year. This is important, because Medicare plans often change and you’ll want to ensure that the premiums and prescription coverage for your current plan will still be a good fit in the coming year.

Every plan is required to send an Annual Notice of Change letter to participants, and it usually arrives by September. Compiled by your Medicare plan, the notice includes any changes to coverage, costs, or service area that will take effect in January.

Additionally, plans are required to provide a more detailed overview of coverage and costs in what’s called an Evidence of Coverage document. Plans were traditionally required to mail this to consumers, but starting in 2018 they also have the option of simply publishing it on their website by Oct. 15. So if you haven’t received it in the mail, you might want to check online.

If all of this seems overwhelming, sometimes it can be helpful to call your plan and run through your list of medications, to ensure everything is covered.
Another important note: If you are in a Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage Plan, doctor networks can change from year to year. If you are attached to your current doctor, you’ll want to contact your plan to confirm they’re still in-network.

SHINE can help
Medicare is complicated, but fortunately there’s a great program called SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone), which provides free, unbiased counseling on Medicare in Massachusetts.

SHINE counselors are volunteers who have undergone 40 hours of training, with the goal of helping others receive the best possible coverage. To set up an appointment with a
SHINE counselor, contact the Aging Information Center at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services or your local Council on Aging.

Also—be sure to call early: there are a limited number of counselors, and they are booked fairly quickly.

Colleen Morrissey is Volunteer and Outreach Manager for Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES). For more information about SHINE counselors, contact the SCES Aging Information Center at 617-628-2601, or contact the Cambridge or Somerville Council on Aging. SCES is a non-profit agency that supports the independence and well-being of older people in Somerville and Cambridge.