This 2018 photo shows the cover of the 2019 U.S. Medicare Handbook. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

This 2018 photo shows the cover of the 2019 U.S. Medicare Handbook. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Deadline looms for Medicare open enrollment

70,000 Snohomish County residents receive Medicare benefits and the paperwork is due Saturday.

EVERETT — Open enrollment ends Saturday, Dec. 7, for Snohomish County’s more than 70,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

They have until then to fill out their paperwork. The process can easily get confusing. Brisa Guajardo with Community Health Plan of Washington has answers to frequently asked questions this open enrollment season.

Question: As I review all of my Medicare paperwork, what should I pay the closest attention to?

Answer: Carefully review your annual notice of change and take note of changes to your benefits and premiums. Check to see if your premiums have increased — if your plan premiums have gone up, check your budget to make sure the plan will work for you. Then, review any benefit changes to make sure that all of your needs will be met. For example, Medicare generally doesn’t cover dental benefits, but some Medicare Advantage plans, like Community Health Plan of Washington Medicare Advantage, do cover preventative dental. So make a list of what you would like and research plans that meet your specific needs.

Q: What are the different types of Medicare plans I should research?

A: There are many great Medicare plans out there, and the benefits and premiums differentiate the various plans. Apart from original Medicare, there are Medicare Advantage, Zero Cost and Supplemental plans. Supplemental plans are optional and you will not be penalized for not signing up for a supplemental plan. If you cannot afford or don’t want to commit to a supplemental plan, we recommend researching Medicare Advantage plans which operate the same way as the Medicare original plan but with enhanced benefits. If you want coverage to protect your health, but do not get sick often, it could be worth exploring a Zero Cost plan.

Q: If I already like the plan I am on and do not want to change it, do I need to fill out a new application?

A: No action needed. While we recommend reviewing your plan for any changes, your plan will auto-renew in January 2020 if you do not take action before then.

Q: What happens if we get to Dec. 8 after Medicare open enrollment ends and I decide I want to change my plan. What are my options?

A: While Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 is annual open enrollment, there is also the Open Enrollment period from Jan. 1 to March 31 where Medicare beneficiaries have a one-time chance to choose a different Medicare plan. For example, if you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plan and it is not what you expect, like you experience an increased premium or the benefits are not exactly what you hoped for, you have time to change your plan. You can either switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan or the original Medicare plan.

Q: I am not eligible for Medicare but my parent(s) need my assistance enrolling in a new Medicare plan. How can I help my parent(s)?

A: You can help by doing some research in advance or visiting a designated Medicare representative at your parents’ health plan. While your parent(s) do have to go through the enrollment process themselves, we are happy to help you help them navigate the system.

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