Getting a grip on open enrollment

How it effects your healthcare

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  • | 10:00 a.m. October 6, 2016
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Every year, Medicare health and drug plans can undergo changes in key areas such as cost, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. From Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, open enrollment allows people with Medicare to change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. In order to choose the plan that works for you, it is important to have the right information at your disposal.

“Seniors are often bombarded with unsolicited information and advice from family and friends that doesn’t necessarily apply to their specific needs,” says Michelle Waldow, senior benefits advisor at The Health Insurance Store. “Our job is to present all the options available and then provide specific details for each option. By doing this, it takes away the guess work and presents the easiest path to finding the health insurance plan that makes sense for each individual.”

For starters, Waldow recommends that if you are in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, you should review the materials your plan sends you, especially the “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC), which is mailed out in September. If your plan is changing, you should make sure it still meets your needs for the following year. Your plan may incur increasing co-pays, changes to drug formularies, or other plan changes which may affect your decision. If you are satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for next year (and is still being offered), you don’t need to do anything.

Waldow also suggests going to, a search tool that provides an estimate of your prescription costs for 2017 Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. The guide will list the drug, plan tier and your monthly costs, premium (if one applies), and most importantly, if and when you will likely hit the coverage gap during the year. You can also go to the Plan Finder on to get information about which plans will be offered in your area next year, what they will cost, and how their quality scores stack up.

What most people do not know is that there are many variables that affect their healthcare coverage from year to year, including their current medications, income, and working status. There are also additional benefits they may be unaware of that they actually qualify for. Different plan options can have different coverage and provider options, and total costs can vary greatly. During the open enrollment process, it is important to consider premiums, deductibles, copays, overall cost comparisons, gaps in coverage and prescription drug coverage.

“There are pros and cons associated with every plan, which is important to point out to clients,” says Waldow. “None of them are perfect, but when you have the right information in front of you, you can compare plans and make decisions you are comfortable with. Sometimes a plan can be ideal when it comes to your medications and co-pays, but you find out your doctor isn’t taking that plan for next year. There’s a lot to consider, which is why it’s important to reach out to people who can lay it out for you clearly and concisely.”

In order to help seniors learn more about their options and provide them with a forum to speak directly with Medicare experts before open enrollment begins, One Senior Place Greater Orlando will be hosting the Medicare Symposium for Seniors 64+. This free educational event will include presentations from experts in the field, who will provide an overview of Medicare, open enrollment, and prescription drugs. An open enrollment Q&A will give attendees an opportunity to converse with professional representatives from WellCare, Florida Blue, CarePlus, United HealthCare, Canadian Medstore, Walgreens Pharmacy, and more. The symposium, which is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will also provide access to vendors, door prizes and refreshments.

“This is the perfect venue for seniors who want to find out more about their Medicare health plan options because it's designed to be purely educational,” says Waldow. “Independent agents and other healthcare professionals will be there to answer questions and provide pertinent information that will help seniors make the right choices during open enrollment. This can be an intimidating and stressful period for many seniors, but we are here to help in any way we can.”

If you are interested in attending the Medicare Symposium for Seniors 64+, please RSVP by calling One Senior Place at 407-949-6733.

One Senior Place is a comprehensive, one-stop resource with access to information, advice, care and services for seniors. Not only are a variety of businesses available in one location, but we also offer educational seminars and fun events on a regular basis, and our Senior Resource Library is available to help you find what you are looking for.


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