Every year, a few weeks before Halloween, I get dozens of calls from Medicare beneficiaries with questions about Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period, which begins October 15 and ends December 7. It is the time when Medicare beneficiaries can decide to keep their existing health plan or select a new plan that becomes effective January 1 of the following year. I provide tips to help callers review their options. This year, in addition to those calls, my voicemail overflowed with seniors who received an unexpected letter from about their Medicare health coverage. The notice explained that their Medicare plan would not be offered in 2014 and was ending December 31, 2013. As a result, they would need to take action and select a new plan by December 31, 2013, or their coverage would revert to Original Medicare only.


Tip 1: You qualify for a special enrollment period from October 15 to February 28, 2013. So now is the time to consider your options. If you don’t take action by December 31, you’ll have Original Medicare coverage only, and will lose prescription drug coverage unless you join a separate Medicare prescription drug plan.

Tip 2: Decide to join another Medicare Advantage health plan because your plan has notified you that your existing plan will no longer be offered. If you wait until after February 28 to join a new plan with prescription drug coverage, you may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty.

Tip 3: Call Medicare 24 hours, 7 days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE for help.

Tip 4: Refer to the 2014 Medicare & You Handbook for detailed information.

Tip 5: For help comparing plans: Call Hawai‘i’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program, Sage PLUS at 1-888-875-9229. All counseling is free.

Martha Khlopin hosts the popular weekly radio program “Medicare Moment with Martha — The World of Medicare” sponsored by AlohaCare. It airs on KHNR-690AM on Saturdays from 11–11:30 a.m. and on KGU-99.5FM on Sundays from 10–10:30 a.m. For info, call (808) 973-0754, mkhlopin@alohacare.org.