The annual Oregon guide to Medicare insurance is now online and will soon be available in print.
The guide is available to people who:
* Are already enrolled in Medicare and have until Dec. 7 to decide if they want to make any changes to their coverage as part of the annual enrollment that is under way.
* Start Medicare in 2014 and want to understand all their choices for health and prescription drug coverage.
The guide is published by the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) section of the Oregon Insurance Division. SHIBA is a statewide Medicare information and assistance program that is federally funded through an annual grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. SHIBA staff and more than 250 certified volunteers counsel many of Oregon's more than 650,000 Medicare beneficiaries to help them understand their Medicare benefits and enrollment options.
Call 1-800-722-4134 for free, unbiased one-on-one assistance.
The annual enrollment started Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. Any Medicare Advantage (MA) or prescription drug plan (Part D) changes must be made between these dates so that coverage begins without interruption on Jan. 1, 2014.
"Our counselors also can provide tips to beneficiaries or their family members who want to compare plans on their own," SHIBA spokeswoman Lisa Emerson said. "SHIBA counselors have been able to help people save hundreds of dollars on their prescription drug costs just by taking the time to do a yearly comparison."
SHIBA counselors can help beneficiaries compare plans by using the plan finder tool found online at www.Medicare.gov.
Here are SHIBA tips for comparing plans:
Find your insurance cards: You may need your red, white, and blue Medicare card to review benefit details or enroll in a new plan. If you have a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, you may also need that card.
Update your list of prescription drugs: Check with your doctor to make sure you understand each prescription. Is a generic available? Can you eliminate any unneeded medications? Based on your list, do you have the right plan for you?
Use the Medicare.gov plan finder: The plan finder uses your prescription list to compare prescription drug and Medicare Advantage health plans in your area. Not all companies cover the same drugs so it's important to have a complete list of your medications and dosages when using this tool.
Contact your doctor, hospital, and pharmacy before making changes: Not all health and drug plans contract or work with the same providers. If you switch plans, make sure you understand which providers you can see for the best price.
Apply for help with drug costs: If you have limited income and assets, you may qualify for extra help with prescription drug costs. SHIBA counselors can help you apply for this benefit through Social Security.
SHIBA: To meet with a counselor, contact the toll-free SHIBA Helpline at 1-800-722-4134. You will be asked to enter your ZIP code to be connected to a program in your area. Visit www.oregonshiba.org to find a copy of the 2014 Oregon Guide to Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Prescription Drug Plans.
Medicare: Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you understand your coverage options and enroll in a plan.