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Medicare open enrollment period underway
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The time of choices and changes has arrived for Medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment Period started on Oct. 15 and ends Dec.  7.  This time period is the opportunity for people with Medicare to change their health care and prescription drug plans for 2014 or to decide to keep the coverage they have.

“Every plan is making changes – some big and some small.  Some plans are even shutting down.  I recommend that every person entitled to Medicare review their current coverage and then look at the other plans to figure out what coverage would be best for them for 2014,” said Shelley Matson, Vernon County’s Elder Benefit Specialist.

An example of the upcoming changes is one 2013 Advantage Plan is terminating at the end of the year.  This plan is AARP MedicareComplete Plus offered by United Healthcare.  More than 350 county residents are currently enrolled in this plan.  They will need to select new health and drug coverage for next year or risk having little or no coverage.

In Vernon County, for 2014 there will be 28 prescription drug plans and 10 Advantage Plans, some of which also include drug coverage.  Additionally 30 companies offer Medicare Supplement plans, which are not subject to the Open Enrollment Period deadlines.  An alternative to Medicare’s Part D prescription drug coverage is the State program, SeniorCare.  Funding for SeniorCare funding has been approved through 2015.

“Many people that I speak with about their Medicare choices are overwhelmed by the number of options to choose from and all the mail they are receiving from the plans,” said Matson.  “So much so that some of them do nothing and just continue with their current coverage,” she continued, “which may end up not being the best option for them, for their finances or their health.  We are available with information to help sort through their options.”

Elder Benefit Specialists serve every county in state, offering information and advocacy on public and private benefits including Medicare to persons age 60 and older.  Disability Benefit Specialists offer similar services to persons aged 18-59.

Assistance in reviewing Medicare options is available directly from Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) or at  Or from the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Helpline at 1-855-677-2783, or the Disability Drug Benefit Helpline at 1-800-926-4862.

Local assistance may also be obtained from the Vernon County Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) at 608-637-5397 or 1-800-500-3910.  Residents in other counties may contact the ADRC or Aging Unit serving their county or tribe.  Information on programs to help with the costs of Medicare premiums and drug expenses is also available from these resources.