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Medicare open enrollment period now open
Free counseling available through RSVP
new deh medicare enrollment shick logo

 The open enrollment period for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage in 2017 began October 15, 2016, and runs through Dec. 7.

“Adults 65 an older can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage for the first time during this period, and current Medicare consumers can make changes to several aspects of their coverage as well,” said Linn Hogg, director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and a Senior Health Insurance Counselor for Kansas (SHICK) in Great Bend. “If you’re already enrolled, this is an opportunity to review your coverage and make adjustments if necessary so it better meets your needs.”

SHICK is a free program offered through the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services that offers Kansans an opportunity to talk with trained, community volunteers and get answers to questions about Medicare and other insurance issues

The RSVP office is taking appointments starting Monday to help people compare their plans, and to make changes if they choose to do so. In Hoisington you can contact Melissa Nech at the community library. The Barton County Extension office is also taking appointments. 

According to KDADS Director of Communications Angela de Rocha, during open enrollment, those currently enrolled may:

• Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa; 

• Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another;

• And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

Hogg said those already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and don’t want to make changes to your coverage for 2017, don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, assuming your current plan will still be available in 2017. If their plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, they will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. 

“If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment,” she said.

But be aware that benefits and premiums could be changing for 2017, Rocha said. “So even if you’re confident that you want to keep your current coverage for the coming year, it’s important to understand any changes that may apply and check to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option.” 

The available plans and what they cover changes from one year to the next, so even if one’s plan was the best option when they shopped last year, it’s important to verify that again before you lock yourself in for another year.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14 each year, those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can leave that plan and return to original Medicare, Rocha said. If they leave their plan, they will have until Feb. 14 to enroll in a Part D plan that will begin the first day of the following month that you enroll.

Changes to be aware of for 2017 include:

• Medicare recipients reaching the “donut hole” will benefit from better prescription drug discounts.

• Medicare Part B premiums will increase for those who didn’t see an increase in 2016

• Medicare Advantage plans continue to change

 Call RSVP at 620-792-1614 for this free counseling service. RSVP is sponsored by Barton Community College and a United Way agency partner.