Turning 65 years old is an important milestone for many reasons, not the least of which is Medicare eligibility.
Volunteers with the State Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), planned an event to help ease those about to reach that milestone through the rite of passage that is Medicare enrollment.
“Much as you anticipated turning 16 and getting your driver’s license, you must anticipate and plan for becoming a Medicare beneficiary,” Carmen Long, SHIIP volunteer and the Surry Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension agent, stated in an Aug. 26 release.
The event, titled “Welcome to Medicare – 65th Birthday Celebration” was held at the Surry County Human Services building on Thursday afternoon.
SHIIP, a division of the N.C. Department of Insurance, provides free, unbiased information about Medicare and other insurance-related issues. The Surry Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension is the local SHIIP site.
Numerous SHIIP volunteers were on hand to help explain the enrollment process and acquaint those in attendance with tools available to help them determine the right plan for them.
“Some people have to fight piles of information that come to their home,” Long said.
Those tools included SHIIP printed materials, (Long likened one brochure to a “wedding planner,”) as well as the organization’s website and Medicare.gov, which both provide means of comparing different plans and different providers and the cost of those plans.
Enrollees want the most inexpensive plan, but also don’t want to be left without the coverage that may be needed.
“It kind of gives you an idea of what to expect,” Long told the group. “It’s going to pull up all the different plans you’re getting in the mail and it’s going to tell you which one is less expensive.”
She also pointed out preventative wellness benefits included in the plans, which have other benefits for the insured in addition to being a money saver.
“It’s a whole lot more fun than to spend your retirement not feeling well,” she said.
The participants were also alerted to common pitfalls that are best to be avoided when enrolling, such as failing to enroll in a prescription drug policy, which results in a monthly penalty, or making sure prescriptions you take are covered.
“One of the issues we are finding in Surry County is a lot of doctors at Northern Hospital are no longer in network with United Health Care,” Long gave as an example. “You can go to the hospital but if you want to see a doctor you might be out of network.”
The volunteers emphasized preparation and long-term thinking when planning their enrollment.
“It’s actually like a game,” Long said. “You want to win. You want to come up with the most money in your bank account.”
For more information, to find out when future classes will be held, or to arrange an appointment with a SHIPP volunteer counselor, contact the Surry Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension at 336-401-8025, SHIIP in Raleigh at the N.C. Department of Insurance at 1-855-408-1212 or visit www.ncshiio.com.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.