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Open enrollment for Medicare ends Dec. 7

NEW YORK STATE — Autumn has brought falling leaves, shorter days, cooler weather… and Medicare enrollment.

Friday, Oct. 15, was the opening day for those enrolling in Medicare for the first time — or for those who wish to change the plan they currently have.

Medicare enrollment in the U.S. will end before you know it; the deadline this year falls on Tuesday, Dec. 7, roughly two weeks from now.

According to www.medicare.gov, medicare is defined as “the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older; certain younger people with disabilities; and people with end-stage renal disease [permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD].”

Enrolling for Medicare can be confusing and difficult with so many options to choose from, especially because if one makes a wrong choice, it can mean a full year of being unhappy with that choice.    

Fortunately, there are many ways to find help out there, and people who have expertise in the field of senior health willing to share their knowledge.

Some changes that can be made during the open enrollment period include switching from Medicare Advantage back to original Medicare; to disenroll from original Medicare to enroll in Medicare Advantage or change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another.

Other possibilities including signing up for a Part D prescription drug plan, or canceling one’s prescription drug coverage.

Changes one can make during the Medicare annual enrollment period will take effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.

According to Director of the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA) Todd Tancredi, the dates are firm. The plan one is enrolled in on Dec. 7 is set in stone for the entire next year. However, if a person moves, or retires after that date, it can change.

“The OFA does offer assistance with this process,” said Tancredi. “We are doing most of our insurance counseling over the phone this year due to the COVID pandemic, so it is not necessary for someone to come into our office in Poughkeepsie.  All one needs to do is to call our office and speak with a community service worker.  

“We will take their personal information, including a list of their current medications, dosages, etc., and schedule a date and time for them to speak with a health insurance counselor.”

Then, at that appointment, explained Tancredi, the senior caller will simply review insurance plans, drug plans, costs, etc., with the OFA representative to determine which plan best meets their needs.   

The Dutchess County Office for the Aging in Poughkeepsie is easy to reach. Simply call 845-486-2555 or call toll free at 866-486-2555. One can also email the OFA at ofa@dutchessny.gov.

Other resources are available to help understand Medicare insurance, including New York State’s Health Information Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP), which provides free information, counseling and assistance with Medicare and private health insurances providers working directly with Medicare beneficiaries to educate them about the Medicare, Medigap and Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and long-term care insurance. They can also help with Low-Income Subsidy Programs, employer-sponsored insurance and other health insurance programs that are available in New York State.

The toll-free hotline is 1-800-701-0501. For more information, call 845-486-2555.

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