Now that Medicare open enrollment season is here (from October 15 through December 7), online sources concerning various insurance supplements and drug plans are available along with access to experts trained in Medicare regulations to provide unbiased information to help you determine the best plan for you.
Free for Ohioans, the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP), run by the Ohio Department of Insurance, has a toll-free hotline, a speaker’s bureau, and cooperates with regional Area Offices on Aging to make information accessible to Medicare recipients. They also offer information on Part D prescription coverage, Medicare Advantage plans, and long-term care insurance, serving as a source of unbiased information.
How to reach a counselor
In Lucas County, dial the state toll free number (1-800-686-1578 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) or call the Northwest Ohio Area Office on Aging at 419-382-0624 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday). Before you call, be sure to have information on your Medicare account and drug prescriptions close by for reference. If you prefer, make an appointment to meet with a trained volunteer.
Julie Liebenthal, the OSHIIP contact at the Northwest Ohio Area Office on Aging, suggests, “You should get a re-check on Part D every year. Insurance plans are always changing.”
Justin Moor, Vice President of Communications at the Office on Aging adds, “Each member of the household should get a recheck.” Because each person has different prescriptions that are covered differently on each plan.” Moor adds that all the services of OSHIIP are free, regardless of income.
Information, printed and online
To access more information before meeting a volunteer, OSHIIP has online and print materials available. This link (http://insurance.ohio.gov/Consumer/OCS/Pages/OCSPubIndexTab6.aspx) connects you to online booklets on Medicare, the Part D supplement program, how to spot and fight predatory sales practices, and your insurance options when an employer drops or reduces health benefits. For printed handouts, call the OSHIIP hotline at 1-800-686-1578.
OSHIIP also hosts live informational events and free webinars. The webinars run about an hour and present speakers while allowing viewers to type in questions with a computer. If you can’t attend a check up day, OSHIIP hosts check up webinars, happening 10am November 7 and November 20. For a list of webinars and “check up day” events held around the state, see the OSHIIP website http://insurance.ohio.gov/Consumer/OSHIIP/SitePages/CheckUpDays.aspx.
For Michiganders there is a similar service, the Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Plan. Call 800-803-7174 to set up an appointment with a local volunteer, or find out more at their website: www.mmapinc.org.