Each day, around 10,000 Americans turn 65 and become eligible to enroll in Medicare, the federal health insurance program that currently covers more than 60 million people. Designed to make healthcare affordable for every recipient, Medicare offers many different plans (known as “parts”) and also partners with private insurance companies to offer supplemental plans as options for every budget and health concern, including prescription drug coverage.
It’s important to understand the specifics of each part and choose from these plans carefully, as they can affect your out-of-pocket costs and even which healthcare providers you can use. And once you make your choices, changes can be made ONLY during the Medicare Open Enrollment, which occurs from October 15th through December 7th every year.
If that sounds a little complicated, that’s because it is. But United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) Area Agency on Aging (UWAAA) is here to help. The Alabama Department of Senior Services has designated UWAAA as the administrator of its State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) in Jefferson County. And just as the name implies, SHIP is all about providing assistance to anyone needing guidance on signing up for Medicare coverage and choosing the plans and options that are best suited to their needs.
Trained and certified SHIP counselors provide highly personalized, unbiased information and assistance to Medicare recipients and their families as a service to the community and completely free of charge. They help with questions or concerns about Medicare coverage, benefits, premiums and coinsurance, and will never try to sell a client anything or show favoritism toward any single provider. SHIP also offers information and advice on Medicare Advantage Plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, as well as Medicare Prescription Drug coverage (Part D), and can assist with complaints and appeals with regard to coverage.
Getting help through SHIP is as easy as making a phone call. Counselors are available year-round for one-on-one appointments at the Area Agency on Aging’s office in the UWCA building. Simply call 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463) to arrange a private meeting. During Medicare Open Enrollment, UWAAA also holds a number of public events at various locations throughout the community, where you can meet with SHIP counselors for help enrolling, sorting through your Medicare options or making changes to the plan you may already have.
Even if you’re not ready for Medicare yet yourself…or if you’ve already figured out your benefits, SHIP may still be of interest to you. UWAAA is always looking for new volunteers who enjoy learning, helping others and giving back to the community. So give us a call at 1-800-AGE-LINE to find out about becoming a certified SHIP counselor. Visit our website to explore our many other programs for seniors. Or visit INVOLVE, UWCA’s new multi-functional volunteer platform, where you’ll find an assortment of United Way volunteer opportunities to appeal to a variety of interests, as well as ways to track your volunteer hours, manage your service time and share your experiences with others.