Senior center can help with Medicare decisions

Senior center can help with Medicare decisions

Image Credit: Teri Stein

Carla Mayfield, director of operations at the Tuscarawas County Senior Center, wears many hats for the organization, and for help making Medicare decisions, she is the person to see. Though the yearly enrollment period for Medicare is her busiest time of year. She is seeing clients year round.

“Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 is the busy time because that’s open enrollment, but I still see people throughout the year who are new to Medicare, who want to check out their choices and what they want to do,” Mayfield said. “There’s a lot more during the year now than there used to be because of the baby boomers coming of age.”

Initial sign-up for Medicare at the age of 65 is through the Social Security office.

The yearly enrollment period is the time enrollees can check to see if there’s something better for them and make changes that could save them money.

Mayfield is a certified counselor through Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program. She does recertification training once a year and keeps up with weekly updates. For those without the training, deciding what Medicare programs are best can be confusing.

The senior center is able to provide this free individualized service for all Medicare recipients living in Tuscarawas County. It can be especially tough when some independent insurance representatives attempt to contact people at home.

“It’s confusing because everybody says they have what is best for you. You’re bombarded with your mail. You’re bombarded with phone calls because everybody thinks they have what you need. They’re telling you this, and they have no idea what medications you take. They have no idea what doctors you see. They don’t know you,” Mayfield said.

According to Mayfield, Medicare will never call you. Anyone calling is from an agency. People shouldn’t be fooled. They are not talking to anyone from Medicare, even though the callers sometimes say they are from Medicare services.

“If someone calls you, you just don’t know who you’re talking to on the other end,” Mayfield said, adding that in some cases, they will ask for your Medicare number. “With Medicare fraud, you never want to give your Medicare number out to anybody who just calls you.”

Mayfield wishes the process for seniors was simpler.

“For the older population, this shouldn’t be a time for them to be bombarded and overwhelmed. These are supposed to be your golden years. This is supposed to be where things are easy,” Mayfield said.

Not having a home computer can cause additional problems.

“Everybody’s requiring you to have a computer. A lot of people don’t have a computer, and they don’t want to learn a computer. It’s overwhelming to them,” Mayfield said.

To schedule an appointment with Mayfield at the senior center, call 330-364-6611. Bring your Medicare card, list of doctors and a list of medications with the strength and dosage.

“If we’re going to look at Advantage plans, of course, we need to know who their doctors and hospitals are. That’s a little bit more in depth than just looking for a Part D (prescription) plan. Advantage plans have a lot more components to them,” Mayfield said, adding it’s important you’re getting the right Advantage plan.

It also can be confusing because a couple may be used to being on the same medical plan, but once they become Medicare eligible, they may need different plans to better address their individual medical needs.

“It’s catered to individual need. There is no plan that is better than another plan, and the same with a prescription drug plan. They’re all Medicare-approved plans, so it just is which one is the best for you,” Mayfield said.

Sticking with regular Medicare and adding a supplemental plan can cover more medical costs than an Advantage plan, but you’ll pay a lot more up front not to have any bills after an illness. With Advantage plans, there are a lot of zero premium ones.

“You see them advertised on TV, with those you don’t pay a lot monthly to have, but your bills come after the illness through your co-pays,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said Medicare recipients should keep an eye on their plan bills. Premiums can change for better or worse.

“There are a few plans out there that have seen a very high increase, like a $40 increase. That’s the time where people need to make sure they’re checking their plans. Because if you just don’t open your mail, you don’t pay any attention. Come Jan. 1, your plan has jumped $40. And it’s too late because Dec. 7 was the cut-off. People need to pay attention to their correspondence from their company to be made aware and realize that they need to do something,” Mayfield said.

The services at the senior center are unbiased as they are not associated with an insurance company.

“I don’t sell anything. I don’t have a horse in the race. I am just a consult. I tell you what’s available to you,” Mayfield said. “I can enroll you in an Advantage plan. I can enroll you in a Part D plan. Supplemental plans, you’re pretty much on your own, but I do not sell anything.”

For people who want supplemental plans, Mayfield can help with the selection process.

“The supplemental plans are pretty much them going home picking up the phone and calling the company that they want to deal with. I can help them decide which plan is best for them because there’s different supplemental plans,” Mayfield said. “Once we decide that, they just need to go home and call whichever company they want to purchase their supplemental from.”

The Medicare consulting services at the senior center are free. Medicare recipients just need to be Tuscarawas County residents.

Mayfield said she has been seeing some of the same people for 15 years as they come in annually to make sure they still have the best plans that are suited for them. She is already booking appointments into the second week of November, so those wishing to consult with her need to call for an appointment now.

It’s important to remember Dec. 7 is the deadline for all Medicare changes to be made.

“Don’t wait till Dec. 8. It’s too late,” Mayfield said.