Medicare Open Enrollment Season — which began Oct. 15 and will run through Dec. 7 — may make some seniors feel like it’s open season, a time when publicity health plans are irrelevant and unrestricted. The market is usually flooded with television commercials, promotional mailings and annoying telemarketing calls. Yet, amidst all the noise, there is some good news to be trusted.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency that regulates Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the state and federal insurance marketplaces, recently released an announcement laying foot on the misleading sales pitches of Medicare Advantage plans. and Part D drug plans. Using “secret shoppers,” CMS found that 80% of agent calls with customers were inaccurate or insufficient. The result from 2023 will be tighter controls and approval on healthcare plan advertisements.
The agency backed a rule that requires all Medicare Advantage agents, brokers and third-party organizations to record all calls with potential enrollees, including the enrollment process, among other new guidelines.
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CMS’s decision to take this tough stance will certainly benefit seniors who enroll in their health insurance plans. Yet the process and choices for many can still be confusing. ElderSourcea nonprofit organization and the Designated Area Agency on Aging and the Aging and Disability Resource Center for Northeast Florida, offers a free program to help people understand their life choices. health insurance and navigate the enrollment process.
The program, SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders), is funded by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and administered locally by ElderSource. SHINE is the only Medicare-sponsored source of individual counseling for Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers in the State of Florida.
ElderSource’s 38 SHINE counselors are highly trained to understand and guide Medicare beneficiaries through the open enrollment process. Background checked and prohibited from holding an insurance license, SHINE advisors offer free, confidential and unbiased help. They will not attempt to sell insurance or make decisions for Medicare enrollees. They simply help all seniors apply for all Medicare benefits to which they are entitled.
The impact of our SHINE volunteers is impressive. Last year alone, SHINE volunteers registered 3,425 contacts and helped seniors save more than $3 million on Medicare Part D and $2 million on Medicare savings plans.
This essential counseling service has been active through the Florida Department of Seniors Affairs since 1992 and today more than 500 SHINE counselors are available statewide.
The other good news is that while this program is currently very active during Medicare Open Enrollment, SHINE volunteers are ready year-round. It’s a known fact that 10,000 people in the United States turn 65 every day, a time when all of those people are eligible for their Medicare benefits. Additionally, with Medicare fraud rampant, SHINE volunteers can also help beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers prevent, detect, and report health care fraud and abuse.
It is important to note that there are indeed many affiliated health insurance companies and brokers in Northeast Florida that offer excellent health insurance plans and provide excellent customer service.
We welcome the opportunity to guide seniors during this critical time to review their Medicare coverage and determine if any changes need to be made to their plans. SHINE volunteers are ready to meet people by phone and in person. Call the ElderSource Helpline at 1-888-242-4464 to schedule an appointment.
Consider SHINE your go-to resource during open Medicare enrollment — or if you’re celebrating your 65th birthday soon.
Linda Levin, CEO, ElderSource
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of The Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.