| Thu, Sep 14, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Need Help Navigating Medicare? Here Are Some Ideas

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

sandy markwood headshotTop Tips on Medicare Explained by People Who Live It Every Day

Medicare Open Enrollment is coming up. It starts on October 15 and runs through December 7. This is the time when you can change your Medicare coverage choices for the following year, if you choose to.

As part of National Medicare Education Week, we turned to leaders from organizations and companies in the health and aging fields to get their thoughts on how to navigate Medicare and where to get help during Open Enrollment.

Today we speak with Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). The n4a is a nonprofit organization that works with a network of more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging to help older adults and people with disabilities live with dignity in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Q: What is your top tip for people preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment?

Markwood: It’s important that people look at what their health care needs are. Well before they start really looking into what the plans provide, they need to do that important assessment. Sometimes what we find is that people don’t want to go through the process. They assume that either their coverage hasn’t changed, or they aren’t realistic about how their health has changed. People have to make sure their health care needs and their coverage options line up.

Medicare is a wonderful resource and an incredible benefit for people but it can be confusing. People need to take the time and research it, or get the help that they need out in the community to help them navigate Medicare to make sure they make the choices that may be best for them.

Q: Where can people go to find help navigating Medicare?

Markwood: What we’ve found is that, especially with these important decisions people need to make, people often go to the Web, but they feel most comfortable if they can sit across the table with somebody and actually walk through what are the best options and choices for them.

There are SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) counselors and folks within Area Agencies on Aging who can help them do this navigation. You can go to our website (www.n4a.org) to find every Area Agency on Aging in the country, most of which can connect you directly to a SHIP counselor. Or you can go to the SHIP Technical Assistance Center (www.shiptacenter.org) to locate all of the different local SHIP counselors that are out there.

Because Medicare information changes, it’s important to go to a trustworthy group or organization, somebody who has the most up-to-date information. There are other trusted resources out there, such as Medicare.gov and MedicareMadeClear.com. All are helpful resources to make sure that people get the information they need, when they need it, to help them navigate open enrollment.

Q: How should people prepare if they decide to talk to a SHIP counselor?

Markwood: If you’re going to talk to a SHIP counselor or somebody at an Area Agency on Aging about your Medicare needs, make sure that you walk into the room with all the information that you need to help you select the right coverage moving forward.

It’s about pre-planning. Look at what your health care needs are and look at what prescriptions you need. If you’re already enrolled in Medicare, make sure that you have all the information that relates to your coverage so that you can do a necessary comparison of your health care needs versus what your current coverage is versus what kind of coverage you may need going forward.

Q: What role can caregivers play when helping someone navigate Medicare?

Markwood: The caregiver plays a key role in helping older adults navigate their Medicare enrollment. Also, it is our hope that for a caregiver, by educating themselves to help their loved one make the best decision, it will be a wake-up call for them to start planning what kind of Medicare plans they will need when they turn 65.

The bottom line

Learning about Medicare and choosing coverage doesn’t have to feel like navigating a maze. To get started, check out this overview of Medicare coverage options and other resources such as Medicare.gov. Ask for help if you need it, and be ready for Medicare Open Enrollment.

For more information, explore NMEW.com, MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.



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