Understanding Medicare Benefits Made Easy

Let’s face it: Medicare can be confusing. Enrollees encounter a lot of tough decisions when it comes to choosing the right coverage plan and sorting through all of the different benefit options. The process sometimes feels plastered with red tape and laden with unfamiliar jargon. And who can keep track of all the different policies and benefits for Medicare Parts A, B, and D, let alone all the private supplemental options that are out there? To make matters worse, people face harsh penalties if they fail to register properly, and confused enrollees risk missing out on discounts and financial assistance. Some even end up paying for coverage they don’t want or missing out on coverage options that they need.

No senior’s health or finances should be at risk just because they had trouble navigating the Medicare process. That’s why Blair Senior Services, Inc. is proud to offer APPRISE counseling, a free service to help you understand your insurance benefits. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging created APPRISE to help Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries understand their health insurance options and make well-informed choices about their health and wellbeing. Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s specially trained APPRISE counselors offer guidance, support, and objective, simple information about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medigap coverage, long-term care, prescription drug coverage, and any other questions you may have.

Melissa Hey is one of Blair Senior Services’ specially trained APPRISE counselors. She stated, “The APPRISE program in Blair County helps residents understand their insurance benefits and assists them in making sound decisions about their medical coverage. APPRISE offers unbiased, accurate information with the assistance of a team of dedicated volunteers.” APPRISE counseling sessions are one-onone and confidential, so you can trust that you’ll get the attention that you need while feeling confident that your privacy is carefully protected. And APPRISE offers advice across a broad range of important topics. According to Melissa, “Counseling topics include: If you are new to Medicare, enrollment in Advantage plans or part D drug plans, explaining your Medicare summary statement, explaining the differences between Medigap and Advantage plans, Medicare appeals, and screening/ applying for financial assistance programs.”

Beneficiaries who have participated in Blair Senior Services’ APPRISE program rave about the care and attention that they receive. One participant told us about her positive experience. Like a lot of seniors, she was overwhelmed when she tried to sign up for Medicare on her own. “My problem was actually very confusing,” she said, “I had so many options to choose from. I could be on my husband’s State plan, be on my federal plan, or Medicare and Medigap.” Like many Medicare enrollees, this beneficiary didn’t understand beforehand how many options were available to her, and she was intimidated by having so many more complicated choices than she had expected. How could she be sure to pick the best option for her? “I began doing some research and called my insurance company,” she said. “It became so puzzling.”

Luckily, the APPRISE counselors at Blair Senior Services, Inc. were there to help. “I first met with John from the APPRISE program at Blair Senior Services and he was so helpful,” she said. Encouraged by her fruitful consultation with John, she tried again on her own, but her research and conversations with her insurance company again proved too perplexing. But Blair Senior Services, Inc. was happy to welcome her back for another advising session, and they were determined to give her all the care and attention she needed to get the best insurance plan possible. She said, “I met with John again and at that meeting he thought it was best to meet again with [him], Melissa, and Jess to go over all these options and figure everything out since my case was so complex. When I met with the three of them, they went over all the options I had. They had printouts of each plan and showed me what was covered with each option and how much the cost would be for each. It was so helpful!”

She might have just been one case, but Blair Senior Services, Inc. treated her like she was their sole priority. They met with her three times, prepared extensively for each of their consultations, and brought in three well-trained counselors to make sure she got the medical protection she deserved at a cost she could afford. “With the information they provided for me, I was able to come to the conclusion of which plan worked best with the least amount of cost for me.” She said, “I cannot say enough on how helpful and patient they all were. There was no cost to me for them to assist me and no pressure from any of them.”

Her advice: don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Medicare is a complicated system, a tangled web of public and private plans, with an array of payment options, discounts, and benefits packages available. “I feel I am a very intelligent woman,” she said, “however, when it came to this information and all the choices, I was very confused. Blair Senior Services’ APPRISE program made it comprehensible and I really can’t say enough good about it. I am very thankful.” It’s not a question of intelligence, it’s a question of getting the health insurance coverage that’s right for you. And with rising healthcare costs and an evolving insurance landscape, getting the most out of Medicare has never been more important. Thanks to APPRISE, it’s never been simpler, either.

Melissa Hey and the rest of the APPRISE counselors encourage you to set up your consultation if you’re about to enroll in Medicare or if you’re already a beneficiary but want to see if you can get more out of your coverage. Melissa told us, “APPRISE counseling sessions are by appointment only and there is no cost to use these services. You will be asked to bring your Medicare card and a list of prescription medications to your appointment.” If you’re about to turn sixtyfive, don’t wait to talk to Blair Senior Services, Inc. so your transition into Medicare can be as smooth as possible. And remember, you only have three months after turning sixty-five to enroll in Medicare without paying a penalty that can raise your monthly premiums by ten percent or more. It’s better to plan ahead. According to Melissa, “If you are new to Medicare, you should schedule your appointment with an APPRISE counselor about two months prior to going on Medicare.” These appointments are free, confidential, and they usually take about one hour.

Soon, Blair Senior Services, Inc. will also offer monthly classes to help Blair County residents understand Medicare. Melissa stated, “Coming soon we will have Medicare 101 classes, which will be held on a monthly basis. If you are overwhelmed by what you need to do to get ready for Medicare, then this class is for you. We will give you the information you are looking for in a way that is easy to understand.” While these classes are informative and helpful in their own right, they can also introduce you to the personalized attention you will receive through APPRISE counseling sessions. According to Melissa, “Afterward, counselors will be on hand to answer your questions confidentially.” Medicare 101 classes will be free, but you must register to attend.

Retirement should be spent focusing on the joys in life— time spent with family, doting on grandchildren, rest, fun, and relaxation—not spending endless hours wading through a complicated Medicare process. Whether you’re about to turn sixty-five and looking for seamless transition onto Medicare or you’re on Medicare already, Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s APPRISE program is there to help. Please call Melissa Hey at 814-946-1235 extension 1016 to schedule a counseling session or to register for a Medicare 101 class.