Baton Rouge: Louisiana Department of Insurance Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselors are conducting statewide outreach efforts to assist Medicare beneficiaries in selecting their health and prescription drug plans. SHIIP counselors will also assist seniors with health insurance claims, supplemental and long-term care insurance policy comparisons, and the Medicare appeals process. Community sessions are planned statewide over the next several weeks.
“Because the opportunity to make changes to Medicare plans only comes once a year, I urge Louisiana seniors to contact our SHIIP counselors, who will be available by phone and in-person, to make sure they are on the plan that’s best for them,” said Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. “These plans can change, so the option you selected in 2012 may not necessarily offer the best coverage for you in 2013.”
The Medicare open enrollment period is the timeframe during which Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their Medicare plans each year. The period begins October 15 and ends December 7, with plans taking effect on January 1, 2013.
Counselors will help beneficiaries in choosing between the Medicare Advantage plan (all-inclusive plan) or Original Medicare plan, along with its Medicare (Part D) Prescription Drug Plan coverage and Medigap policy (Medicare Supplement coverage) option that covers medical co-pays, deductibles, and in-patient hospital fees.
During the open enrollment period, beneficiaries can switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare, switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, join a Medicare (Part D) Prescription Drug Plan, switch from one Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to another, or decline to have a Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
Louisiana SHIIP counselors will be conducting open enrollment presentations across the state over the next few months. Community informational events have been scheduled in Ascension, Caddo, Calcasieu, Catahoula, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson Davis, Ouachita, St. James, and West Feliciana parishes. A list of meeting dates and locations can be accessed by clicking here. Additional meetings are being scheduled and Medicare beneficiaries and those newly eligible are encouraged to be on the lookout for a meeting in their area by visiting www.ldi.la.gov/SHIIP/calendar.html.
BEWARE OF MEDICARE FRAUD AND SCAMS
During the open enrollment period, Medicare beneficiaries need to be especially vigilant to protect their personal information from scam artists. Some states have reported individuals receiving calls from scammers requesting banking information for the purpose of issuing new Medicare cards.
LDI advises beneficiaries to safeguard their Social Security and Medicare numbers from falling into the hands of criminals by never giving them out to anyone whom they did not contact. Medicare beneficiaries should also check their healthcare statements for any red flags suggesting that their information may have been compromised, such as charges for services not received or duplicate billing. Beneficiaries are encouraged to contact their providers or plan if they do not understand the charges billed.
To report Medicare fraud, call the Louisiana Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-877-272-8720 or Office of Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or 1-800-MEDICARE.
ABOUT THE SHIIP VOLUNTEER TEAM
SHIIP is charged with providing Medicare beneficiaries with objective information to help them better understand their Medicare options, rights and benefits. SHIIP counselors provide free and unbiased counseling to seniors via telephone, one-on-one interactive sessions and public education presentations.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance developed the SHIIP Volunteer Team to increase SHIIP’s capacity to educate and counsel Medicare beneficiaries. Each year, SHIIP provides invaluable services to people with Medicare, including counseling beneficiaries through the open enrollment period, educating the community about health insurance issues and helping beneficiaries with limited incomes find ways to save money on healthcare costs. SHIIP volunteers can serve their community as counselors, recruiters, educators, administrators and marketers.
To contact Louisiana SHIIP counselors, or to learn about the volunteer program, please call the Louisiana Department of Insurance at 1-800-259-5300, or go to www.ldi.la.gov/SHIIP