Medicare open enrollment is approaching

With all the interest and activity around the Health Insurance Marketplace this fall, I want to remind residents of Marshall and Tama counties not to miss the Medicare open enrollment period for Part D drug coverage and Medicare Advantage plans. The open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec.7.

This is an important opportunity for people on Medicare to review and choose what coverage they want for 2014. Every year Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans can change their premiums, deductibles, co-payments, benefits and the drugs they cover. You could be surprised on January 1 if you stay with your current plan and find it doesn’t provide the coverage you want or need.

It’s easy to sign-up for a plan and stay with it year after year. But the State of Iowa’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) has found that doing an annual review and comparison can save money. Last year, SHIIP helped Iowans save more than $8 million by doing reviews and choosing coverage that met their needs.

While doing a review, it’s also a good idea to see if you qualify for “extra help” with your Medicare drug costs. Many Iowans qualify for this help and don’t know it. The “extra help” could mean paying as little as $2.50 for generic drugs and $6.35 for brand name drugs. Local SHIIP counselors are ready to assist people applying for the extra help. If you’re on Medicare or know someone who is, share this important information with them.

SHIIP volunteers, based at Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center are available to help anyone on Medicare with questions about the Medicare drug benefit or Medicare Advantage plans. They can also help compare the plans offered in Iowa for 2014 and assist with enrollment in a plan if requested. To meet with a SHIIP counselor call 641-754-5399. SHIIP’s services are free, confidential and objective.