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State health insurance counselors visit

 

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselors Julie Eagleson and Chuck Chambers spoke at the AARP meeting Friday, October 5, at the LaGrange Mt. Zion Lutheran Church. SHIP is an unbiased counseling program provided by the Indiana Department of Insurance for Medicare beneficiaries in Indiana. SHIP is not affiliated with any insurance company or agency, and does not sell insurance. All of its services are provided by trained volunteers and are free.

Chambers opened the program advising seniors that the SHIP team would be available to assist them through the remaining enrollment period, ending December 7, 2012, and encouraged those attending to ask questions. He presented a summary of individual Medicare supplement plans (Medigap) provided by regional insurance companies, and the Medicare Advantage Plan. He explained that a Medigap Plan is a Medicare supplement insurance that private companies sell to pay for out of pocket expenses that Medicare does not cover. Medigap Plans can only be used by those enrolled in Medicare.

Medigap has 10 different types of policies with varying benefits, and all are accepted by doctors or hospitals that accept Medicare, and have premiums with low or no copayments for services. Chambers explained, in exchange for this predictability, the insured may pay higher monthly premiums than for other plan options. Because Medigap has no provided coverage for prescription drugs at this time, he suggested obtaining a Part D drug plan, if needed, to guarantee benefits.

Chambers explained next that the ‘Medicare Advantage Plan’ is a type of health care plan offered by private companies that contract with Medicare. Advantage provides all Part A and Part B benefits, and most plans offer prescription drug coverage. Advantage includes Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), Private Fee-for-Service Plans (PFFS), Special Needs Plans (SNP), and Medical Savings Account Plans (MSA). After the insured enrolls in an Advantage Plan, it pays for all services instead of Original Medicare. Chambers explained there could be Advantage Plan changes in the future.

Eagleson asked seniors interested in evaluating the Medicare Supplement coverage options to call the LaGrange Council on Aging at 260-463-4161 to schedule an appointment with a SHIP counselor. She emphasized the importance of bringing Medicare cards and a list of all current prescription drugs to the meeting, so that SHIP can complete your personal profile and provide choices that will best fit your personal needs and budget for 2013. The enrollment period for 2013 coverage is October 15 to December 7, 2012.

Eagleson and Chambers closed their informative presentation with a question and answer period. Chambers advised attendees to contact an Elder Law Attorney regarding any legal inquiries or issues. They provided take home information sheets detailing different prescription plans and their fees, supplement plan options, and serving companies.

Jim Kennah, AARP 3rd District Community Advocate, handed out AARP’s booklet ‘The Health Care Law and Medicare’ to the seniors. Jim acquired the booklets at the AARP 2012 Volunteer Summit meeting in Indianapolis, October 22-23 2012.

The booklet highlights the major yearly improvements and changes to Medicare through the ‘Affordable Care Act’ affecting recipients starting from year 2010 to 2020 when the Doughnut Hole closes. The booklet stresses finding out all the facts first before making any decisions about making any changes to your Medicare coverage. For personalized information about how the health care law works for you, go to www. aarp.org/healthlawquide.

All seniors are welcome to attend AARP meetings. The LaGrange County Chapter #3829 meets at The Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, 797 N. Detroit Street on the first Friday of every month, except July, which has no meeting.