With Medicare enrollment open, advocates offer seniors information on options

With Medicare enrollment open, advocates offer seniors information on options

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – With the Medicare enrollment period open, advocates for seniors are offering information on supplemental health plans that could help with medical or prescription drug costs.

The Alabama Department of Senior Services provides multiple programs that can help seniors decide what health care options are right for them.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, provides free counseling and education for Medicare beneficiaries, including information on utilizing the first-year Medicare prevention screening benefits. The department’s Senior Rx medication assistance program offers low-or-no cost medications for those seniors or disabled persons without prescription drug insurance.

ADSS Commissioner Jean Brown encouraged seniors to take advantage of the state’s resources during this enrollment period.

“These programs help thousands of Alabama’s seniors live better and more productive lives each year,” Brown said. “By providing Medicare assistance and counseling through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program to ensure our seniors have the Medicare supplement plan that best meets their needs, and with our SenioRx program, which helps ensure that no senior has to choose between prescription drugs and other essential needs, we strive to see to it that our senior population has the tools they need to take control of their health.”

The Medicare enrollment period ends Dec. 7.

Jamie Harding, communications director for AARP Alabama, said those who are currently enrolled in Medicare and new enrollees should consider their options for expanded coverage.

“What is most important is for Medicare recipients right now during open enrollment is to review their current coverage and see what changes in benefits or costs will happen in 2021,” Harding said. “They need to decide if that current coverage meets their individual needs.

“Advantage plans encompass a number of additional coverages and, as I said, have many variations in cost and coverage. Every Medicare recipient needs to decide what is best for them, their health and their budget when considering supplemental plans like Advantage.”

Medicare Advantage plans offer qualifying seniors supplemental insurance to their existing Medicare plans to cover additional health care costs, including for prescription drugs.  Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses a five-star system to rank the quality of these  plans on metrics of medical care, patient experience and plan administration, all based on patient surveys.

Alabama’s largest insurer announced this week that its supplemental Medicare prescription drug plan received a solid quality rating from CMS.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s Blue Advantage Complete Preferred Provider Organization Plan, a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan, was awarded a four-star quality rating from CMS. The plan is the only $0 premium Medicare Advantage plan in the state to receive such a distinction.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition. Our company remains focused on consistently providing our members across the state access to quality health care at the most affordable price,” said Dr. Dow Briggs, executive vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “We are thankful to our provider partners for taking care of our members. We care about our members’ health and want to provide them an excellent customer experience and the best possible health outcomes.”

Those interested in more information on Medicare Advantage plans can visit Medicare.gov or AlabamaAgeLine.gov, or call 1-800-AGELINE.