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As open enrollment begins, NYSOFA encourages older adults to utilize free, statewide Medicare counseling program


Wed, Oct 12th 2022 04:05 pm

NYSOFA-administered Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP) served 248,000 New Yorkers in 2021, helping individuals make informed decisions

Submitted by the New York State Office for the Aging

Medicare open enrollment begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. It's the time when beneficiaries can make changes in their health plan or prescription drug coverage and other options that take effect Jan. 1.

Free and objective counseling is available to help beneficiaries navigate their options. The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) encourages older New Yorkers to utilize this assistance. It is available through the NYSOFA-administered Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP), which helped 248,000 New Yorkers in 2021. To reach a local counselor, call the helpline at 800-701-0501.

NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said, "Your insurance coverage changes from year to year. So do your individual needs as a Medicare beneficiary, such as newly prescribed prescription drugs, having different physicians who may not be in a plan’s network, or changes in your financial status that might make you eligible for assistance to cover out-of-pocket costs. HIICAP counselors are a trusted resource to review your current needs and help you make informed decisions, especially at this critical time during open enrollment. Every beneficiary should take this opportunity to fine-tune their needs."

Upcoming Facebook Livestream to Answer Your Questions

On Oct. 27 at 1 p.m., NYSOFA will be featuring a livestream on Facebook covering "Medicare Open Enrollment: What You Need to Know." The program is part of a monthly series where Olsen features guest experts on topics of interest to older adults.

NYSOFA’s guests on Oct. 27 include Heather Leddick, who is the primary administrator for HIICAP in New York state. She'll discuss the HIICAP program, what it offers, and how to get assistance. The livestream will also include Frederic Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center. He’ll explain the 2023 changes in Medicare, including expansion of Medicaid and the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), among other updates.

RSVP for the program here, or head to NYSOFA's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NYSAGING on Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. to watch the program and ask questions of the experts in the livestream chat.

Leddick said, “With over 500 trained HIICAP counselors throughout the state, Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers have access to a trusted known community resource. We encourage beneficiaries to contact 1-800-701-0501 to schedule a one-on-one counseling appointment at any time throughout the open enrollment period and throughout the year. This free, unbiased service provides education and information to help you make informed decisions about your personal health care needs.”

Riccardi said, “As people with Medicare weigh their coverage choices for the upcoming year, health care costs are an important consideration. Starting in 2023, people who live in New York and have a limited income may be newly eligible to receive assistance with their health care costs through a Medicare Savings Program (MSP). On Jan. 1, eligibility for this vital program will expand for New Yorkers, and if someone is currently enrolled in an MSP, they may receive more comprehensive benefits.” 

HIICAP in Detail

During open enrollment, or at any time of the year, HIICAP can help a person:

√ Understand the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D) and how to select the best plan.

√ Understand low-income subsidy programs, including Extra Help and Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs).

√ Find ways to pay for your medications or medical equipment.

√ Understand and apply for the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program.

√ Choose between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

√ Understand Medicare rules and your medical bills.

√ Report possible Medicare fraud or abuse.

√ Provide information on how to appeal a decision by Medicare, your managed care provider or other health insurance company.

√ Discover ways to fill in Medicare’s gaps.

√ Learn how to file a Medicare or Medigap complaint.

√ Learn about Medicare-covered prevention and screenings.

Protecting Yourself

Medicare experts report a higher risk of potential fraud during the open-enrollment period as well as potentially misleading marketing. Medicare has rules about how plans can and cannot communicate with you to market their insurance products. The Medicare Rights Center offers the following warnings:

√ Plans are allowed to mail or email you, but are not allowed to call or visit you in person without your permission.

√ Beware of people who pressure about making plan changes, claim to be representing Medicare, or attempt to alarm you about losing benefits unless you enroll in a particular plan.

Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should contact Medicare. More information is available at “Help fight Medicare fraud.”

NYSOFA and Medicare also remind older adults to treat their Medicare number as they do their Social Security number and credit card information. People with Medicare should never give their personal information to anyone arriving at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services. If someone calls and asks for a recipient’s Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

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