The annual open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans opened earlier this week, and the West Virginia State Health Insurance Assistance Program is advising all seniors to take a second look at their existing plans.
Marcia Meeks, director of WV SHIP, said although Medicare Advantage providers are required to notify customers of any changes in the policy, changes sometimes can still slip by unnoticed. Year-to-year, Advantage plans often change their premiums, co-pays and the list of prescriptions covered under the plan.
"Even if they're happy with their plan, I strongly encourage them to look at it every year," she said.
Information about Medicare Advantage plans can be found at www.medicare.gov, but WV SHIP provides free and confidential counseling to help seniors sort through the often-confusing process of picking a Medicare Advantage plan.
Meeks said seniors can receive assistance over the phone or in person. SHIP has counselors located around the state. Though it's best to call and make an appointment, walk-ins are also welcome.
Seniors need only bring their Medicare card and a list of current medications. SHIP counselors do the rest, looking at each of the available plans and helping customers decide which would best suit their individual needs.
Medicare recipients must make the final decision on whether to switch plans, but SHIP counselors only help them make more informed decisions.
"One plan may not be appropriate for both a husband and wife," she said.
Meeks said she recently helped a man save $1,200 on his yearly premiums while keeping the same level of insurance, just by switching plans.