Senior Life Matters

Question: My wife got her information about her Medicare Advantage plan. The monthly premium looks to be the same. I don’t think she should change plans. What do you think? How would we know which plan to choose for 2020?

Question: My wife got her information about her Medicare Advantage plan. The monthly premium looks to be the same. I don’t think she should change plans. What do you think? How would we know which plan to choose for 2020?

Answer: The 2020 Medicare Insurance season has arrived! I am pleased with the plans offered this year. During the Annual Open Enrollment Period everyone with Medicare gets a LOT of information about the products you have and the others that are offered. The mail you receive and commercials you see, can be overwhelming with too much information. I am excited that this year we didn’t lose a plans and this year have 2 new plans offered.

I always recommend that you research the alternatives available and decide which plan works for you. Try to find out more about your plan to be sure it is still valuable, useful and beneficial for you. Some of the plans truly didn’t change that much. But it is worth looking at the alternative plans available to you. When comparing your current plan with other products you will learn more about insurance. You may find something better, or you may decide you have a good deal after all.

Be cautious in reviewing the alternatives. I often hear that people switch to a plan that a friend or family member recommended. Everyone makes insurance choices for different reasons. Be sure their reasons for liking that product make sense for you.

I have attached the list of Medicare Advantage Plans that are available for 2020. The Annual Open Enrollment Period when you can make changes to your plans is between October 15 and December 7, 2019. During this time you can switch your insurance product and your new plan will begin January 1, 2020. The following list includes ALL Medicare Advantage Plans for Chautauqua County. Cattaraugus County actually has more plans that listed here. Cattaraugus County has plans offered by Aetna, Fidelis and MVP, which are not listed on this chart. Some Medicare Advantage Plans include drug coverage and some do not. It is important to consider more than just the price. This list is printed as a way for you to figure out what all those mailings are that you are receiving. This list was obtained from the website and is for Chautauqua County. It is important to understand each county has different plans available. These plans are listed by plan name, not any preference to level of service or type of plan. The abbreviations mean: PFFS – Private Fee For Service, HMO- Health Maintenance Organization, HMO-POS – Health Maintenance Organization with a Point of Service Benefit, PPO- Preferred Provider Organization. As you review these plans, there are two new plans.

You can see the list of options for Medicare Advantage Plans is different than last year’s list. There are 31 plans available and 23 of them provide drug coverage. There are two NEW Medicare Advantage Plan offered by Independent Health (one HMO, and one PPO). We had no plans that went away, so that is good news.

There are many more factors to look into besides those listed here. You need to think about benefits, co-pays, who participates in the plan and how well it covers your medications. This list was generated to help you decipher what insurance salespeople are talking about, and what you get in the mail. To obtain a list for your area/county, use the website tool, “Find Health & Drug Plans”. There is also a list of available plans in your Medicare & You Handbooks. This list can be confusing though because it lists plans for the wholestate. You can only purchase a plan available in your county. So many of plans listed in your Handbook are not plans you can enroll in.

Happy Insurance Season!! You could be a little overwhelmed, but there are ways to help. You also have agencies and programs that are available locally to help you find new insurance. Of course, that is what we do every day at Senior Life Matters. There is Office For the Aging (716-661-8940 or 716-753-4471) staff available to help with insurance questions throughout the year. Southwestern Independent Living Center (716-661-3010) also has staff available to help with insurance issues. The insurance companies themselves and local Brokers are also available to help you make your decisions. Remember that an insurance agent or broker can ONLY talk about the products they offer (that they sell). So, this is a lot like buying a car. If you go to a Jeep dealership they can’t necessarily tell you about Hyundai’s. The Jeep dealership can ALWAYS find a product from their lot that is perfect for you. That does not mean you should drive a Jeep. Be sure to visit/talk to other companies and research your options before you sign the dotted line. The Annual Open Enrollment Period is October 15 to December 7 each year.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan now and decide not to change during this time, you also have other opportunities. The newest enrollment period we have is the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period which runs from January 1 to March 31 each year. This Open Enrollment Period is available to those individuals who have a Medicare Advantage Plan on 1-1-2020 and want to make switch their plan to anything else. That period of time is from January 1 to March 31, and the plans would begin the first of the month after you make the change. An example is if you switch your Medicare Advantage Plan on January 14, 2020, your new insurance coverage would begin February 1, 2020. If you change your plan during February, it begins March 1, 2020. If you change your plan any day in March it begins April 1, 2020.

I, of course, don’t recommend putting this decision off, but it is important to realize you have other opportunities to change if you decide to do so in the future.

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