Get free help with your Medicare

by Cate Kortzeborn Medicare’s acting regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Territories.

Note: On Thursday, Nov.10 at 10am at Foster Library there will be a free 

Medicare 101 Q & A with our local Medicare expert, Samuel Schwartz.The program will get you the answers you need to make an educated decision about Medicare. Bring any and all questions!

When someone with Medicare finds his or her way to my office phone, it’s often because of a complicated and snarly issue that’s going to take time to fix.

However, it’s sometimes a Medicare beneficiary who found my number somewhere and called for some basic help in understanding their coverage. I love those calls because I have a quick and easy answer for folks like that.

I refer them to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP. There’s a SHIP in every state in the country.

SHIPs are nonprofit organizations that help people with Medicare understand their benefits better. The counseling is personalized and it’s absolutely free. SHIPs aren’t connected to any insurance company or health plan, so they’re not trying to sell you any kind of product. If you’re eligible for Medicare, you’re eligible for assistance from your local SHIP.

The quality of the counseling is terrific. Many SHIP counselors have Medicare themselves and they’re well-trained to answer your questions. They know all the ins and outs of the program, whether you have Original Medicare (where you choose the doctor or hospital you want and the government pays your providers directly) or Medicare Advantage (in which private insurers offer health care services through a specific network of doctors, hospitals, and other providers). SHIPs also can help with Part D prescription drug insurance.

How do you get in touch with SHIP? Call 800-434-0222.

Of course, there are other ways besides SHIP to get information about Medicare. One excellent resource is the “Medicare & You” handbook, which is mailed to Medicare beneficiaries every fall.

“Medicare & You” is a gold mine of easy-to-understand information about how Medicare works, how to enroll, what services are covered, and many other topics. The handbook also lists all Medicare Advantage and Part D plans available in your area, their costs, and contact information for each one.

You can find the latest edition of “Medicare & You” online at: http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10050.pdf

Help is also available through the Medicare customer service center, at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY users call 1-877-486-2048). The call center is open 24 hours a day, including weekends.

 

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