Medicare Guide 2023: Here's how to get help in Oregon during open enrollment

Medicare Guide 2023: Here’s how to get help in Oregon during open enrollment

The Medicare open enrollment window opens today. The time to make choices for 2023 benefits runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

The choices can be daunting. And this year promises to be especially complicated given the passage of a new federal law.

But there is help available. One resource is the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program. The advisory program trains counselors to help senior citizens navigate the Medicare maze of choices.

Donna Delikat, interim SHIBA director for Oregon, says the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress earlier this year changed some important things. In particular, she encourages anyone who uses insulin to seek out help this year.

Delikat says counseling appointments book up quickly so don’t delay.

Seniors can also call insurance hotlines staffed by volunteers trained in the ins and outs of Medicare. They can also schedule online video-conference meetings with volunteers and insurance brokers using Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Independent insurance brokers typically sell more than one carrier’s plans.

Q: When does The Oregonian/OregonLive publish its Medicare comparison grids?

HAS: They will appear in The Sunday Oregonian print editions Oct. 23 (available on newsstands Saturday, Oct. 22) and on OregonLive. Check oregonlive.com/business to find stories labeled “Medicare Guide 2023.” Click here if you do not see the grids below.

Q: What do I need before a consultation?

HAS: There are a few essentials you should gather before seeking help:

Medicare card

MyMedicare.gov login information, if you have an account

Pharmacy name and address

List of all prescription drugs, strength and dosages

A list of medical issues or concerns you’d like to cover

Q: Where else can I find help?

HAS: There is also a lot of information online. Visit Medicare.gov and its comparison tool, medicare.gov/plan-compare. The federal government’s site remains the most authoritative guide around, but it has an important disclaimer this year for people who need insulin.

The tool allows you to compare costs for a wide range of health services across multiple drug and Medicare Advantage plans available in your area. It also has ratings on each plan’s performance and quality. Most important, it allows you to enter your prescription drugs to find out which plans cover them and at what cost. A knowledgeable counselor can help those who need to buy insulin navigate the comparison, which is not updated with changes for insulin costs, Delikat said.

Medicare expanded its Medigap search engine on the tool to include cost ranges depending on age, gender and smoking status. Access it via bit.ly/MedigapPlanSearch.

Check Medicare Rights Center’s Medicare Interactive site (Medicareinteractive.org) to help you find answers about Medicare benefits.

Read our past coverage (search.oregonlive.com/medicare) on picking a Medicare plan.

Q: What if I want to speak to someone?

HAS: You can get help by phone.

Call Medicare itself at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

Call the nonprofit Medicare Rights Center’s national helpline at 800-333-4114, Monday through Friday.

Locate a SHIBA office near you by visiting www.shiphelp.org or calling 877-839-2675.

Q: Are there local resources?

HAS: Yes, counselors from the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program can answer questions by phone 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. Some are also scheduling virtual conferences. Call 800-722-4134 to schedule a consultation or visit shiba.oregon.gov.

Check the website for online presentations coming up. For in-person, don’t delay. Appointments book quickly.

In Multnomah County, call 503-988-3646 and press option 3. Virtual appointments are available with counselors, with limited in-person consultations.

In Clackamas County, call 503-655-8269 and press option 4. Schedule counseling appointments Monday through Thursday. Also, check the county website at clackamas.us/socialservices/shiba.

Oregon City Pioneer Center, appointments only, 10 am to 3 pm Nov. 2.

Estacada Public Library, appointments only, 11 am to 3 pm Nov. 9.

Canby Adult Center, appointments only, 1 pm to 4 pm Nov. 14.

Molalla Adult Community Center, appointments only, 1 pm to 4 pm Nov. 16.

In Washington County and for St. Helens, call 503-846-3094 for appointments. The following times and days are only during the open enrollment period:

Hillsboro, main SHIP office in the Disability, Aging and Veterans Services building, walk-in or appointments, 10 am to 3 pm Monday through Thursday.

Hillsboro Senior Center, walk-in only, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday.

Beaverton Elsie Stuhr Center, appointments only, 11 am to 2 pm every Wednesday.

Sherwood Marjorie Stewart Senior Community Center, appointments only, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. ever Wednesday.

Tualatin Juanita Pohl Center, appointments only, 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm every Friday.

St. Helens Senior Center, appointments only, 11 am to 1 pm every other Tuesday, beginning Oct. 25.

In Washington state, call the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors at 800-562-6900 or visit bit.ly/wa_shiba.

OTHER RESOURCES

Health insurance brokers are often knowledgeable about choices and can help you choose and purchase a plan. It’s probably best to deal with licensed independent brokers. They cover plans from several different insurance companies, receive training each year on the plans and are overseen by state and federal regulators. Consumers don’t pay directly for this help. Instead, brokers earn sales commissions directly from the plans.

You can search for Medicare brokers at OregonHealthCare.gov’s website: bit.ly/ORAgentSearch. Check an agent’s license online at bit.ly/or_broker_licenses or call the Oregon Insurance Commissioner’s Consumer Advocacy Unit at 1-888-877-4894.

Insurance carrier websites and customer-service phone lines can be good places to verify coverage details,

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