Health insurance isn't the easiest thing to understand. But if you have Medicare, there's a variety of help resources you can turn to.
One is Medicare's toll-free help line, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Trained representatives are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to answer your questions about your Medicare coverage.
All people with Medicare receive a copy of the "Medicare & You" handbook in the mail each fall. This booklet has a wide range of information about what Medicare covers and what it costs. It includes details about Original Medicare as well as privately-run Medicare health and prescription drug plans that you can join. Another useful resource is Medicare's consumer-friendly website, at www.Medicare.gov.
Yet another terrific way to get your questions answered is to make an appointment with your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, or HICAP. HICAP provides free, personalized counseling to people with Medicare.
Got a problem with a medical bill? HICAP can help you deal with it. HICAP counselors are volunteers and they're often enrolled in Medicare themselves, so they know the issues. They can help you understand your Medicare rights, file a complaint if you feel you got inadequate care from a hospital or other healthcare provider, or file an appeal if your Medicare health or drug plan denied you a service.
With Medicare open enrollment season coming up (it runs from October 15 to December 7), you may be thinking about joining a Medicare health or drug plan, or switching from one plan to another. HICAP can help you choose a plan.
Let's say you take multiple prescription medications. A HICAP counselor can enter all your drugs into Medicare's Plan Finder tool (available through www.Medicare.gov) and search for plans that cover your drugs. If you have a low income, the counselor can help you apply for the "Extra Help" program, which helps pay your costs in a Medicare drug plan.
You can reach the HICAP office nearest you by calling this toll-free number: 800-434-0222.
HICAP isn't affiliated with any insurance company and won't try to sell you insurance. (Funded through federal grants, the program is operated by the California Department of Aging.) Your name will never be passed along for commercial purposes and your personal health information will be kept strictly confidential. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).