Oklahomans 65 and older have a little more than two weeks left to enroll in Medicare or update their existing coverage.
Medicare open enrollment runs Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
Dr. Marshall Dawer, market medical director for United Health Care in North Texas and Oklahoma, answered questions about how residents can better prepare themselves before enrolling.
Q. What should people consider if they're already enrolled?
A. Dawer said it's important to give yourself enough time to review your options. This is the time to look at your plan's network and assess whether you can access the services you'll need for the coming year.
It's also good to ask yourself questions about what additional benefits you might need and what the options are with your current plan.
Enrolling in Medicare or updating a current plan is not a fun process, and it can be easy to procrastinate. However, waiting can leave you with a plan that doesn't serve you as well.
“I think many families, although the period starts in October and goes until December, people wait until the last minute, which is the wrong thing to do,” he said.
Q. What resources are available to help people understand their options?
A. The Oklahoma Insurance Department has staff ready to answer residents' questions.
This division of the department provides counseling, assistance and advocacy related to Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, long-term care and other health coverage plans for Medicare beneficiaries, their representatives or people who will soon be eligible for Medicare. Residents can call (800) 763-2828 for assistance.
Dawer said senior citizen centers, churches and community centers could also provide guidance and resources. Insurance companies have their own resources online for Medicare beneficiaries.
Generally, people want choices, but the number of plan choices can be overwhelming.
“A lot of studies show that the more choices people are given, the harder it is to make a selection, and people don't necessarily make the best choices,” he said. “Sometimes when they have less choices, they're more apt to engage. That's perhaps an issue.”
Q. What often goes overlooked during enrollment?
A. Dawer said people often enroll in a plan and then continue with that plan without considering other options. A large portion of Medicare beneficiaries stay on the same plan year to year, he said.
“The plan that was a good plan for you last year, given how the plan is configured or what your particular circumstances are, may not be the plan for you this year,” he said.
Also, some people choose the plan with the lowest premium without considering the plan's out-of-pocket expenses. Oversimplifying your decision can lead to problems down the road, he said.
“Their decisions should reflect their values and resources, but often times, they don't have an iterative process to really do that,” he said.