Sign-up for Medicare ends Friday

CLARIFICATION: Only people who want to change their existing Medicare plan need to make changes by this Friday.

The deadline for open enrollment in Medicare is coming fast.

All people who plan to join Medicare or continue Medicare coverage but want to change their plan need to enroll by the end of the day Friday. Information about plans available to Mesa County residents, which can change year-to-year, is available at Medicare.gov.

In general, U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are at least 65 years old can apply for Medicare by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or going to https://secure.ssa.gov/iCLM/rib. Enrollees or their spouses must have worked at least 10 years in a Medicare-covered job to qualify for Medicare coverage.

Those who wish to enroll but want a little more information can contact a Colorado State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, also called a Colorado SHIP navigator, by calling Mesa County RSVP at 243-9839 to schedule an appointment or visiting with a volunteer SHIP navigator in person between 9 a.m. and noon or between 1 and 3 p.m. today at a Medicare Part D Enrollment Event on the lower level of the U.S. Bank building at 422 White Ave. No reservations are required for the walk-in event. Attendees should bring all insurance cards to the event and bring either their prescription drug bottles or a printout of current medications so navigators can help them find plans that suit their medications.

Ruth McCrea, local SHIP project manager and an RSVP employee, oversees a team of seven SHIP navigators trained to help people find Medicare plans that suit them. Most people are happy with the coverage they already have, McCrea said, but want to know if there are any plans out there that can help them save money.

Navigators can help a person compare which plans may end up costing the least when co-pays, prescription costs and deductibles are compared but enrollees must choose plans for themselves. Navigators also can educate enrollees about money-saving programs for co-pays and deductibles through Social Security or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Today’s event will be the fourth and final enrollment event hosted at RSVP headquarters this year. McCrea said the first two events were sparsely attended, but more than 40 people came to the third event Nov. 28.

“People are now realizing they have to get on the bandwagon,” McCrea said.

This is the second consecutive year Medicare’s open enrollment period has ended in early December. Enrollment used to last through the end of each calendar year. McCrea said the old system used to mean some people would sign up at the last minute and expect their Medicare coverage to kick in Jan. 1, but it would take more than a few hours for insurance companies to process that paperwork. The new system gives insurance companies more time to have coverage ready Jan. 1, McCrea said, and also allows people to enroll before they rush into the busy holiday season.


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