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Medicare Plan Finder Makes Changes for 2019

Lorraine York-EdbergLorraine York-Edberg, SHINE Regional Program Director

On August 27, 2019, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made a change to the current Medicare Plan Finder. They launched a new redesigned “mobile friendly” version to meet the needs of the growing number of tech savvy Medicare beneficiaries. It allows you to shop and compare Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans to find the best Drug Plan options to meet your needs.

The redesigned Plan Finder can be accessed through “My Medicare Portal,” so the first step to access the Medicare Plan Finder is to create an account through the MyMedicare.gov website. A SHINE program in the eastern part of Massachusetts created a YouTube video to show you how to create an account with ease.

This account creation is necessary for all Medicare beneficiaries to review and compare the 2020 Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans during the upcoming annual open enrollment period from October 15th to December 7th.

As SHINE counselors prepare for open enrollment, we encourage you to create an account prior to meeting with your SHINE counselor for your review of the 2020 plans. This only takes a few minutes to set up and you may already have one, as Medicare invited you to start one when you first became eligible for Medicare. If not – no problem, it’s easy to make changes to your account and recreate it without ever needing an email address. SHINE counselors will be able to assist you if you have trouble or have no access to a computer or handheld device like a tablet or a smartphone.

Man visiting the MyMedicare.gov websiteAfter spending time exploring the MyMedicare.gov website, I have found it to be helpful for many things, including the ability to:

“It allows you to shop and compare Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans to find the best Drug Plan options to meet your needs.”

  • Track original Medicare claims and your Part B deductible status.
  • See what Medicare coverage you have.
  • Sign up to get your “Medicare Summary Notices.”
  • Print an official copy of your Medicare card.
  • Manage your personal information (like drugs you take, your pharmacy, medical conditions, allergies and implanted devices).
  • Sign up for your “Medicare & You” handbook electronically.

Remember, it is time to review your Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, “Your Annual Insurance Check-Up” to:

  • Make sure your plan continues to cover your medications.
  • Check your plan for any restrictions like quantity limits, prior authorization or step therapy.
  • Check any mail you received from your plan to make sure they continue to be available in Massachusetts, or if you have been re-assigned to a new plan.

Review and save all letters from your plan!

During the Medicare Open Enrollment (October 15 - December 7), you will have an opportunity to change your coverage for next year. You can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you are already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can use the Open Enrollment to switch back to Original Medicare with a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

State-certified SHINE (Medicare) counselors can help you understand your plan changes, as well as other options you may have. Call early to get a SHINE appointment (1-800-498-4232) during open enrollment!

All the ways to get the help you need:

  • Visit MyMedicare.gov to use the Medicare Plan Finder.
  • Look at your most recent “Medicare and You” handbook to see plans in your area; 2020 books were mailed in late September.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say, “Agent.” Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.
  • Contact your local SHINE program.
  • Attend a local presentation regarding the annual Open Enrollment period.

The SHINE program, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, provides confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. This is a free service, though contributions are welcome and will go a long way to help support this vital program. For further assistance with any Medicare issue, you can make a SHINE appointment. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the regional office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555, or contact your local council on aging.