DOBSON — With 21% of Surry County’s population 65 or older, Medicare is a big concern locally, and the Surry Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension wants to help those seeking answers with a new open enrollment period under way.
It began today (Oct. 15) and will continue for eight weeks to give seniors enough time to review and make changes to their Medicare coverage.
In reminding about the open enrollment period, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey suggests that recipients compare plans and make necessary changes in the federal health insurance program during that time.
“Medicare plans and prices change,” Commissioner Causey said in a statement. “It is important for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the open enrollment period by contacting local Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselors to save money, improve your coverage or both.”
Any changes must be made by Dec. 7 to guarantee one’s coverage will begin without interruption on Jan. 1, 2023.
One way to review and compare plans available next year is through the local Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program counselors, according to information from the Surry County Extension unit.
SHIIP is a division of the N.C. Department of Insurance which offers free, unbiased information about Medicare, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other health insurance issues.
In addition to helping Medicare beneficiaries compare and enroll in plans during the open enrollment period, SHIIP counselors can assist citizens in determining if they are eligible for Medicare cost-savings programs.
Those counselors are not licensed insurance agents and do not sell, endorse or oppose any product, plan or company. Persons with questions about specific plans are encouraged to contact their insurance agents or providers.
Ways to connect
One way to review and compare plans available for 2023 includes getting one-on-one help from local SHIIP personnel by calling the Surry County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension at 336-401-8025.
Counselors are available in both Dobson and Mount Airy. Persons interested need to call to make an appointment for either a telephone or an in-person visit, 336-401-8025 to reach the Dobson office or 336-783-8500 for the Surry County Resource Center in Mount Airy.
The local counselors are Tom Bachmann, Mike Carper, Donna Collins, Tammy Haynes and Mary Jane Jenkins, with two new volunteers who are in training, Sylvia Gentry and Donna Sutphin.
More are always sought to assist local Medicare beneficiaries.
An informational program is scheduled at the Beulah Community Club on N.C. 89 Tuesday at 7 p.m., with other educational sessions to be announced before the Dec. 7 deadline.
Other ways include:
• Receiving that assistance through the state Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program by calling toll free at 1-855-408-1212, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Visiting www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare present coverage with all options available in this area and enroll in a new plan if there is a decision to make a change. A Medicare & You handbook mailed to people on that program in September can be consulted for this.
• Calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to learn more about coverage options. TTY (text telephone device) users should call 1-877-486-2048.
More information about SHIIP and the Medicare open enrollment period is available at 1-855-408-1212 or by visiting www.ncshiip.com.
Causey advises seniors to contact a local SHIIP counselor before deciding about coverage because they might be able to receive more-affordable and better Medicare health and/or drug plan options in the area.
For example, even if someone is satisfied with his or her present Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, there could be another plan in the area that covers one’s health care and/or drugs at a better price.