Dear Savvy Senior: Where can I get help with my Medicare decisions? I’m approaching 65, and could use some help sorting through the different Medicare plan options that are available to me.
— Almost Eligible
Dear Almost: The options and choices available to Medicare beneficiaries today can be overwhelming. In addition to original Medicare (Part A and B) that has been around for 49 years, you also have the option of enrolling in a Part D prescription drug plan, and a supplemental (Medigap) policy – both of which are sold by private insurance companies.
Or, a Medicare Advantage plan which covers health care, prescription drugs and extra services all in one. These plans, which are also sold by private insurers, are generally available through HMOs and PPOs.
To help you figure out the Medicare plans for you, there are a variety of services and tools available today depending on how much help you need. Here are several to get you started.
A good starting point to get familiar with Medicare is the “Medicare & You” 2014 handbook that overviews the program and your options.
You can read it online at medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf, or you should receive a free copy in the mail one month before your 65th birthday.
The Medicare website also offers a free “Plan Finder” tool at medicare.gov/find-a-plan that can help you find and compare health plans, supplemental policies and prescription drug plans in your area.
Or, if you don’t have Internet access, or don’t feel confident in working through the information on your own, you can also call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 and a customer service representative will do the work for you over the phone.
Other free resources that can help include planprescriber.com or ehealthmedicare.com, two websites developed by eHealth Insurance that will compare Part D, Advantage and supplemental plans in your area and connect you to a licensed insurance agent.
In addition, the Medicare Rights Center (medicarerights.org) staffs a hotline at (800) 333-4114 to help answer your Medicare questions.