Medicare open enrollment begins, free counseling for seniors - abc27 WHTM

Medicare open enrollment begins, free counseling for seniors

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The ladies at Harrisburg's Heinz-Menaker Senior Center frequently talk Medicare.

Ellen Pleasant was waving a letter around Tuesday afternoon. It came from the state and it informed Pleasant she had to alter her coverage by January 1.

Ellen is easily the most senior at the Senior Center.

Her birthday?

"March the 15th, 1913," Pleasant says in a strong and confident voice.

"That makes you a hundred," I say with awe in my voice.

She corrects me, "I'm a hundred and seven months."

At her age, I guess every month counts. In fact, she's 1,207 months old.

Despite her wisdom and clear mind, Ellen is confused about that letter and seeks guidance from fellow seniors at Heinz-Menaker.

"I don't even understand this here," she said. "I got to call, and one person tells me this and another person tells me that. I don't even understand."

Confusion is common when it comes to Medicare's many choices and options, but the APPRISE program provides free counselors to guide seniors. Experts say they shouldn't just assume that this year's plan is the best choice for next year.

"I don't think that's a good thing to assume at all," Brian Duke, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Aging said at a Tuesday news conference. "I think every year seniors should look at our insurance coverage, especially under Medicare, to see what's covered and what's not and whether a change should be made."

Shannon Vallier is the APPRISE counselor for Dauphin County. She can't give one-size-fits-all advice to seniors.

"When it comes to Medicare, it's so individual," Vallier said. "What's best for one person is not what's best for the next person I speak to. It comes down to what can you afford in your premiums? What are your co-pays? What medications do you take? Are you healthy? Who does your doctor accept? So it's very individual."

There are few individuals like Ellen Pleasant, who - like Shannon - dispense free advice.

I ask, what's the key to living past 100?

"I done told you, stay out of the doctor's office," she said. "Stay out of the doctor's office."

That's more easily said than done for seniors, who often need frequent trips to the doctor and multiple prescriptions. All of that factors into what Medicare plan they should have.

They can get the free counseling at every county's Area on Aging office. They can also get help from the state at www.aging.state.pa.us or at 1-800-783-7067.

Consumers can also complete their own plan comparisons by assessing the plan finder tool on the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

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