Emily Rice Published

Medicare Experts Encourage Members To Check Their Coverage

Doctor holding a senior patient's hand on a walking stick.Sandor Kacso/Adobe Stock

Medicare open enrollment began on Oct. 15 and ends on Dec. 7. Open enrollment is a window of time when people can review their Medicare plan options for the next calendar year, or sign up for coverage if they’d not signed up previously.

Rebecca Gouty is the West Virginia State Director of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

“We at SHIP can help people locally in West Virginia understand the information if they don’t have access to a computer, or they don’t have access to the internet, we understand that there’s a lot of people that don’t have that,” Gouty said. “But then even if you do, you might be looking at information and you’re not understanding that. So you can definitely reach out to us. And we can help you walk through that process.”

There are some changes in Medicare coverage this year, due to the Inflation Reduction Act which lowered the amount the federal health insurance spends for prescription drugs and limits increases in prices.

“There’s changes to prescription costs, when somebody reaches the catastrophic coverage phase, their medicines will now be zero,” Gouty said. “And there’s also changes with the Extra Help Program, which is a social security based program that helps low-income individuals with their prescriptions. Everybody will qualify for what’s called full extra help on their prescription costs, which just means that their costs will be lower than the regular co pays. Whereas right now, there’s different levels of extra help.”

Gouty also warned Medicare recipients to watch out for scams during open enrollment season and to never give out their Medicare number to unsolicited callers.

“Just to remind everybody that Medicare will never call you so if you get a phone call and they say they’re with Medicare, no, they’re not and it’s okay to hang up the phone,” Gouty said. “Also Medicare does not send out new Medicare cards every year. So if you get a phone call from somebody who says, ‘Did you get your new 2024 Medicare card yet?’ Or, ‘Did you get a new Medicare card that’s plastic or gold?’ Those are all scams, do not give out your Medicare number to unsolicited callers.”

SHIP is a federally funded program through the Administration for Community Living, awarded to the Bureau of Senior Services to assist Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.

To learn more visit www.wvship.org or call 877-987-4463.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.