It’s almost time for local residents who are 65 and older to choose which Medicare plan they want in the coming year.
Medicare open enrollment starts Sunday and runs until Dec. 7, and state officials are encouraging the nearly 2.3 million Medicare recipients in Ohio to carefully review their plans before making a decision for next year.
On an average day in the Dayton region, about 53 percent of hospital patients are paying with Medicare.
The plan that was the best fit this year might not be the best fit the next year. And your spouse’s plan? That might work for them but not as well for your medical needs, said Chris Reeg, program director for Ohio Senior Health Insurance Program, a state program that answers questions about Medicare.
Reeg said seniors and people with disabilities who receive Medicare coverage should have received a notice in the mail with any changes to their current plans, which seniors should review to see if they need to switch plans for next year.
“We encourage folks to really take a look at that and get a look at what is changing for their current plan,” she said.
There are scheduled events around the region where people can stop by and get one-on-one help with signing up. The program also has a free help line at 1-888-686-8657. Last year, the program served about 351,000 people.
Reeg said Medicare recipients should consider whether their plan is the most cost effective, whether it gives them the full coverage they need and whether it will give them convenient options.
About 65 percent of Ohioans get traditional Medicare, typically also with supplemental coverage. Another option is Medicare Advantage, which is a Medicare plan privately managed by a commercial insurance company.
Some Dayton-based groups will have Medicare plans available. CareSource has a Medicare Advantage plan in Ohio that will be expanding from 14 to 22 counties for the 2018 benefit year. Premier Health Plan will have three different kinds of Medicare Advantage plans.
Don Mackos, president of Miamisburg-based RetireMEDiQ, which enrolls people in Medicare Advantage and supplement plans, said one of the big changes during this enrollment term is the issues from Premier Health and UnitedHealthcare remaining in a contract dispute.
Starting Jan. 1, unless a contract agreement is reached, about 4,000 people with UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage who use Premier Health will either need to switch to a new plan or a new doctor. People with traditional Medicare and also have supplement plans through UnitedHealthcare will not be affected by the contract dispute and can keep using their plans next year wherever Medicare is accepted.
“For retirees who want to continue to have access to Premier, this is their opportunity to look for a plan that meets their needs with their doctors and hospitals,” Mackos said.
Medicare enrollment season also tends to draw out scammers, so people should be aware of phone scams and other kinds of fraud. No one should be calling or knocking on doors and saying they are with Medicare or asking for any kind of payment. The only contact seniors should get will be from someone calling back or contacting them about a scheduled appointment.
Any concerns about fraud can be reported directly to Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.