Guest Column: Medicare enrollment begins — things to know

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

Senior Care by Katie Davis

Katie Davis


Medicare open enrollment began Oct. 15, and there are a number of things seniors need to know regarding this year’s enrollment.

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Medicare Cost plans change

Due to a change in federal law, Medicare Cost plans will end in counties where there are two or more Medicare Advantage plans that meet enrollment numbers. A Minnesota Medicare Cost plan map of the counties where Cost plans will and will not be available in 2019 is available online. While not all Minnesotans on Cost plans will need to change plans, the majority will be affected. Other resources have also been created, including a video from the Senior LinkAge Line® that covers the basics of the Medicare Cost plan changes; and the timeline for the Cost plan changes. A copy of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Landscape that includes all plans for all states is also available online.


Assistance for Medicare enrollment

Due to the unprecedented Medicare changes happening in Minnesota, call volume to the Senior LinkAge Line® is expected to be much higher than normal during open enrollment. To help meet this demand, the Senior LinkAge Line® has increased staff and expanded its hours to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays. Even with these changes, wait times are anticipated to be longer than normal. To help manage the volume and ensure beneficiaries and caregivers get help, we offer these tips:

• Call 1-800-Medicare for assistance — they are ready to help with the Cost plan transition.

• Call a trusted insurance agent or broker for help reviewing options and choosing a new plan or purchasing a policy.

• Those with internet access can use the Medicare plan finder on the Medicare site to review options and actually enroll in a plan.

• Call the different plans to get information about their provider participation and preferred pharmacy network — the plans can also assist beneficiaries with enrollment.

• Before calling the Senior LinkAge Line®, a plan or insurance agent, prepare a complete list of prescription drugs and dosages — this will allow them to better assist with reviewing options.

• When calling the Senior LinkAge Line® for help with Medicare, press “2” to be routed to a Medicare specialist.


Upcoming key dates for Medicare-related events

• Oct. 15–Dec. 7: Medicare open enrollment—Any Medicare beneficiary can choose a new plan during this time.

• Nov. 2–March 5, 2019: Beneficiaries who lost their Cost plan and switched to original Medicare for 2019 can buy Medicare supplement coverage

• Dec. 8–Feb. 28, 2019: Beneficiaries who lost their Cost plan can choose a different Medicare Advantage plan or Part D prescription drug plan than what they selected during open enrollment

• Jan. 1, 2019: Medicare beneficiaries whose Cost plan ended Dec. 31, and who did not enroll in a new plan will return to original Medicare (Parts A and B only)

• Jan. 1–March 31, 2019: Medicare Advantage enrollment period (new for 2019) allows someone with a Medicare Advantage plan to switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to original Medicare or add or drop a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.


Katie Davis is the campus administrator at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea.