Senior Life Matters

Question; I just got my insurance information for 2020. I am wondering if I should keep it or change to something different. How do I know what to do?

Question; I just got my insurance information for 2020. I am wondering if I should keep it or change to something different. How do I know what to do?

Answer: It’s Here!! Welcome to Insurance Season!!!

This is my favorite time of year!! Excitement is everywhere, well at least for some of us. I do understand your confusion and there is help available to you from a variety of sources.

On October 1 each year, the Medicare Insurance Plans must announce what they will being doing in the New Year. The Annual Open Enrollment Period begins October 15 and goes until December 7 every year. This is the period when you can switch your Medicare insurance products to something different. That new plan will be effective January 1, 2020. The insurance companies begin mailing out material the end of September, all the way through December. It can be confusing, trying to sort it all out.

There are a lot of ways to learn about the products available to you. The first resource I would recommend is the website, This is the website the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) designed to help everyone with Medicare. This website has lots of useful information about Medicare, not just Part D. You can research your physicians, your hospitals, your coverage and the Prescription Drug plans available to you in your area. There is an e-version of the Medicare & You Handbook there as well. This is one of my favorite and most used websites.

You can also call the Medicare Helpline at 1-800-medicare to ask questions (1-800-633-4227). This helpline is available 24-hour, seven days a week. This is a call center that can answer all your questions about Medicare and your coverage. This call center is another useful tool to finding out the answers to many of your Medicare related questions.

You can contact the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Counselors. In New York State we call these counselors HIICAP (Health Insurance Information Counseling Assistance Program) counselors. These HIICAP trained individuals have unbiased information about all your insurance options. You can reach a HIICAP counselor by calling your local Office for the Aging or NYConnects at 716-753-4582.

Insurance brokers or agents can also explain the products they represent, and how those products work for you. Many of the insurance companies have information they can send to you, or presentations you can attend. All of the insurance companies have websites where you can learn about their products as well. In using the websites, be sure you are looking at product information for YOUR region. Insurance options vary in difference parts of the country and different counties.

Senior Life Matters staff is also available to provide this one on one counseling. Our staff will be giving a number of free seminars the second week of October. These four (4) free events will be to explain and help people understand Medicare and some of the changes for 2020. For more information on this program or to make reservations call 665-8199.

The seminars will be held at four different times on three days; On Monday, October 7 at 1:30pm, and at 5:30pm, on Tuesday, October 8 at 3:30pm and on Wednesday, October 9 at 5:30pm. Each seminar will cover the SAME information, so you only need to attend ONE time. We are offering four different times, to accommodate different schedules and our new venue.

We have been doing these seminars for a number of years, but this year we are very excited to be holding these events in our new Edgewood Commons Building on the Lutheran Campus. The address is 737 Falconer Street, Jamestown, NY. These seminars have limited space available for each time slot, so reservations are required. Remember that space is limited and you must make a reservation by calling 716-665-8199.

The confusion you are experiencing in looking at insurance options, is often sorting through the different options and the language used with those products. In reviewing your insurance options, be sure you understand what coverage you are getting; Does it cover just your medications, or is it a plan that covers your hospital stays and doctor visits also? Can it be used when you travel outside of your region? Can you get mail order medication, or just at the local pharmacy? Which pharmacies give you the lowest possible cost? All of this information can change from year to year.

There are lots of questions, and the answers are out there. You just need to know where to look and what to ask! Good luck and Happy Insurance season! Hope to see you at one of our talks.

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 716-720-9797 or e-mail her at