We are fast approaching the fifth Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans, and this year I am seeing far more changes than ever before. This column will deal with the Medicare Advantage Plans as this is where many Peninsula residents will be seeing the most changes.
It is imperative that you read very carefully any letters or packages you receive from your insurance company. If you do not understand what they are telling you, I strongly recommend you get assistance to make sure you are fully aware of your options.
You can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227, the local SHIBA people can be reached at 452-3221 and they hold free clinics at the Sequim Senior Center each Tuesday between 10am ~ Noon, or call your friendly local insurance agent. In addition I find that the www.Medicare.gov web-site to be extremely useful in helping decipher the jungle of information.
Many people do not bother to wade through all the fine print, but you should. If you do not, you may regret it for all of 2010. These warnings are not meant to be scare tactics; the following are some examples of what is changing:
Thousands of people all across the Peninsula will be receiving letters from their insurance companies telling them that their coverage is not going to be available in 2010. These terminations include plans from Coventry Health Care, Secure Horizons and Aetna. These are just the ones I am aware of so far. If your plan is being non-renewed you have many options available to you on a guaranteed basis. Do not panic, but do not ignore it either. Learn what your options are.
One option is to return to original Medicare and purchase a supplemental policy. But if you have been satisfied with your Medicare Advantage plan, other similar plans will be available for 2010.
In my September column I wrote that Group Health was considering re-entering Clallam County in 2011. Boy, was I ever wrong. Forget 2011, it is 2010. They are in the midst of holding educational seminars in Sequim, Port Angeles and also Port Townsend. They will be in the populous portions of the Peninsula, and will not offer coverage to the West End of Clallam or down the Hood Canal. The plans appear to be very attractively priced and I am sure will be very popular to many people. The one big advantage of the Group Health Plan is that it is a PPO plan that comes with a list of providers that will accept the plans terms and conditions. The web-site lists 132 providers here in Clallam County, however that number includes providers who are based elsewhere and are only in Sequim for a day or two each week.
Most of the competing Medicare Advantage Plans, other than Regence Blue Shield, are of the PFFS variety where there is no list of providers and it can be hit and miss as to which provider or hospital you can go to.
The Group Health people were in my office this week, and I am pleased to say that they are contracting with local agents to assist you with their plans, as well as provide service to you throughout the year. So far we are the only local agency who has expressed any interest in representing their fine plans.
Another big change on the Medicare Advantage side is regarding Sterling Health Plans. Sterling were the very first company Medicare used on a trial basis for these plans way back in the mid-1990’s when the plans were called Medicare+ Choice. Until this year they have only allowed captive agents or employees to represent their products. This year they have decided to expand their marketing clout by allowing independent agents to represent them. Needless to say we at Castell Insurance will be offering their products as appropriate.
I know that if you are still reading this you are probably numb with so many details, believe me you are not alone. I have an expanded version of this along with more details available on my web-site at www.CastellInsurance.com , so if you are a glutton for punishment please check it out there.
As always at this time of year, I urge people to take care and read all the material you receive from your insurance plans.