Bladine: Medicare redux: with clarifications

Here’s a correction paragraph originally planned for display elsewhere on today’s page: 

“Correction: The deadline to change Medicare Advantage plan coverages, discussed in last week’s column, is eight days sooner than reported. That cutoff date – Thursday, Dec. 7 – also applies to changes in prescription drug coverages, and to switching between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.”

On further review, even more clarifications and notes about the Medicare maze are warranted.

For example, last week we linked to a couple of interesting websites about Medicare. We should have included the most informative Medicare website at www.medicare.gov.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

We mentioned that people on Medicare Advantage plans can have problems returning to Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) if they face new, serious health conditions. We should have added that similar problems cam await people wanting to switch from lower-benefit to higher-benefit Medigap policies.

The deeper one dives into the whirlpool of Medicare rules, the murkier the water. Perhaps the most confusing issues involve potential eligibility for switching from a MedAdvantage plan to Original Medicare, with or without Medigap coverage.

For example, on Medicare.gov, I found real complicated answers under the heading, “When can I buy a Medigap policy?” As a prelude to that information, it states: “These answers only apply to your federal rights. Contact your state to find out if your state offers more opportunities for you to buy a Medigap policy under state law.”

For that, you can turn to Oregon’s Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance program (SHIBA), perhaps connecting with the nice lady from Amity who brought last week’s incorrect date to my attention. Here is her concise description of SHIBA:

“(It) is a statewide network of trained counselors who volunteer their time to educate and advocate for people of all ages who have Medicare. As part of the Oregon Department of Human Services, Medicare information and counseling services offered through SHIBA are a free public service.”

It’s a bit late in the game, with a looming deadline for the Medicare annual enrollment period, but there are other opportunities for change. Take time to become armed with more information from reading government websites, talking with insurance professionals and, perhaps, reaching out to state counseling through www.shiba.oregon.gov.

For those of you who already know all of this, and perhaps want to help others, SHIBA is recruiting volunteers to become certified counselors who “provide local and confidential one-on-one help for Oregonians who have questions about Medicare.”

Remember Mae West, who said, “Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


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