Tallahassee, Florida –
The Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) program is available to provide free help for Florida Medicare beneficiaries as they carefully evaluate their health care options during the Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare.
During the Annual Enrollment Period, which begins today and runs through December 31, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to make changes to their Medicare Prescription Drug or Medicare Advantage plans. SHINE encourages beneficiaries to review their benefits each year for a variety of reasons. Individuals often experience subtle changes in their health over the course of the year, and these changes may alter the kind of care they need. This could directly affect their need for more or less health insurance, the types of prescription drugs they require or their access to particular doctors or pharmacies. Health changes can also increase costs, which can be particularly critical for Medicare beneficiaries on fixed incomes.
“It’s vitally important that beneficiaries choose the plan options that are best for them during the Annual Enrollment Period, and that’s why SHINE counselors are here to help,” said SHINE Director Anne Rogers. “Beneficiaries should carefully review whether their existing plan is changing and if that change still gives them the most for their money.”
Doing this type of cost-benefit check is especially important this year for those interested in Medicare Advantage plans, because starting in 2011 beneficiaries will no longer have the option to switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during open enrollment. Instead, a Medicare Advantage Annual Disenrollment Period – running from January 1-February 14, 2011 – will allow beneficiaries only to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare.
“Statewide our volunteer counselors can help seniors compare plans to be sure their current coverage is still providing them with essential benefits and to assess whether coverage or benefit changes would lower their costs. SHINE volunteers can also evaluate a beneficiary’s eligibility for prescription savings programs,” said Rogers.
SHINE counselors provide free, unbiased one-on-one insurance counseling and community education regarding Medicare options and prescription drug assistance for elders, their family and caregivers. Beneficiaries are encouraged to act quickly to assure a smooth transition into the 2011 benefit year. To receive help from SHINE to review and enroll in a plan, individuals may visit designated SHINE counseling sites, attend enrollment events in local communities or contact SHINE’s trained volunteer counselors at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). For a listing of SHINE counseling sites and enrollment events, visit www.FloridaSHINE.org.
Beneficiaries should be careful not to give personal information to anyone showing up at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls in order to sell Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY: 1-877-486-2048). More information is available at www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.