Questions about Medicare's Annual Open Enrollment? SHIBA Can Help!

It's not too soon to start thinking about Medicare's open enrollment period for prescription drug plans (Part D) and Medicare Advantage plans. Open enrollment takes place every year, October 15 through December 7. The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) can help answer your Medicare questions.

Liz Mercer, Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, provides training and technical assistance to Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) volunteers in King and Snohomish Counties.

"We're a free, unbiased, and confidential counseling service of the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner," says Liz Mercer, SHIBA Regional Training Consultant. "Our unbiased, statewide network of trained volunteers helps people answer questions and evaluate plans, and even search for plans online. We also offer assistance with Original Medicare and other health plans."

Before you make your decision, consider the following tips:

  • Plan costs and coverage can change every year, so carefully review all letters and notices from your current plan.
  • Make a list of all current prescription drugs you take, the doses, and how often. Then, use the Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov to compare Part D plans.
  • Review the 2015 Medicare & You handbook. You should receive it by mid-October.
  • If you have questions, call SHIBA at 1-800-562-6900 before you sign up.
  • If you have limited income and need help paying for prescription drugs, check out Medicare's "Extra Help" program. To see if you qualify, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or go to www.socialsecurity.gov and click on Medicare.

Every year, SHIBA offers free Medicare workshops in local areas throughout the state. "These are a great way for Medicare clients to get help and the information they need to find the best options for them," said Mercer. "We usually start populating our online calendar in the early fall. So be sure to check it out." 

To get help with your Medicare questions:

  • Call our Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-6900 and ask to speak with a SHIBA volunteer in King County;
  • Call our SHIBA sponsor Senior Services of Seattle/King County directly at 206-727-6221.

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner contributed this article. Check them out online at www.insurance.wa.gov/about-oic/what-we-do/advocate-for-consumers/shiba.

SHIBA Featured at Kent Medicare Luncheon

On Friday, July 11, 2014 (11:45–1:15 p.m.), hear 33rd District State Senator Karen Keiser and SHIBA trainer Liz Mercer as they provide an update on implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington state and what you need to know about Medicare benefits. The event takes place at the Kent Senior Activity Center (600 East Smith Street, Kent).

For tickets and other information, click on the event flyer, visit the calendar page of this newsletter, or go to the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services Advocacy webpage.