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Deadline for Medicare enrollment approaches

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With less than a week to go before the deadline for Medicare annual enrollment, the calls are steady at the CSRA Area Agency on Aging.

“They have been nonstop,” said Cindy Pruitt, the GeorgiaCares coordinator at the agency, who has been fielding many of the calls for help.

The beginning of the enrollment period was moved up a month, but the deadline was also moved to midnight Wednesday. Although a poll found that one in five seniors on a Medicare prescription drug plan did not know of the early deadline, most people calling the agency seem to know it is coming, said Lauren Spivey, the Elder Rights Program manager.

“They’re sensing the urgency at this point to get something done,” Pruitt said.

The deadline won’t be extended to the end of the year, as had been discussed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

“No extensions or special enrollment periods are planned,” a spokesman said in an e-mail Thursday.

Most of the callers’ questions deal with door-to-door sales pitches from representatives of Medicare Advantage plans that seniors might not realize can come with restrictions on providers that regular Medicare doesn’t have, Pruitt said.

There are also concerns about a large primary care group, the Center for Primary Care, that is no long taking UnitedHealthCare-backed plans, she said. The payments initially were deemed below Medicare, and patients were told. After further negotiations, the Center for Primary Care will accept its AARP Medicare Complete plan, said Jim Larson, the vice president for operations for the center.

Those who miss the deadline also can switch throughout the year to any of the five-star rated plans, a Medicare spokesman said. The problem for the Augusta area is “there are no five stars in our area,” Pruitt said.

MEDICARE OPTIONS

The deadline for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period is midnight Wednesday. The easiest way to assess your options is to go to Medicare.gov and use its “Medicare Plan Finder.”

The tool allows you to plug in and compare coverage and price. First, gather a list of all the medications you will need next year so you can find which plans offer the best coverage.

Also, decide whether you want a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage, in many cases, replaces traditional Medicare coverage and might offer more benefits. It also might come with restrictions on access to certain services, such as specialists.

For help in Georgia, call the GeorgiaCares line at (866) 552-4464. You can reach the local GeorgiaCares program at (706) 210-2029.


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