Expert urges seniors to review Medicare plans

The one constant about Medicare is change, according to Nancy Lombard of the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging. In a well-attended presentation at the Wilton Senior Center on Thursday, Oct. 4, Ms. Lombard outlined some of the changes and updates in the Medicare program for 2013 — as a prelude before the annual enrollment period takes place.

"The Medicare annual enrollment period is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7," said Ms. Lombard, a long-term options specialist, to an audience of approximately 30 seniors. "This is when you can evaluate your options and make a change for the following year. ... It is important to take the time to compare plans."

Along with reviewing the various Medicare options, Ms. Lombard said, beneficiaries should make sure they take advantage of savings offered by the Affordable Care Act.

"This act is helping to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by gradually eliminating the donut hole, which is when Medicare beneficiaries have to pay for medications out of their own pockets and checkbooks," she said.

Some other good news is that more free preventive services are now being offered to Medicare recipients, including flu shots, mammograms and an annual "wellness" exam, which started in January 2011, according to Ms. Lombard.

She also addressed the issue of Medicare Supplement Plans, or Medigap, which are "sold by private insurance companies to cover the deductibles and co-insurance that Medicare does not pay."

Ms. Lombard said 13 companies in Connecticut are currently selling plans, adding that a higher price "offers no difference at all in coverage" from that of a less expensive plan, which ranged in price from around $450 to $200 a month.

A Medicare plan that particularly needs to be reviewed for upcoming changes is Medicare Part B, although more detailed information won't be available until the open enrollment period begins Oct. 15, Ms. Lombard said. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will also most likely see changes and need to review this option carefully.

"Pay attention to the notices you get from the government," Ms. Lombard said.

Also, she advised making sure a doctor takes Medicare before making an appointment.

For more information, call Ms. Lombard at 203-333-9288 or Lauren Hughes at the Wilton Senior Center at 203-834-6238.