Ready? Set? Medicare!

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A friend from Spokane just told me, somewhat proudly even, that she had recently signed up for Medicare. Her parents are still alive, so I silently wondered if they might have responded to her news as my dad did over 11 years when I enrolled: “I can’t believe I have a son on Medicare!”

If you happen to be getting Medicare information in the mail, it’s time for you to begin making some decisions about enrolling, or not. Some people put Medicare off because they are still working and have good medical insurance already.

But even they would be wise to look carefully at the Medicare regulations that may impact later enrollment. Learning some of the twists and turns in the Medicare maze ahead of time is, I believe, a wise use of time! Even long-time Medicare recipients can find those twists confusing.

Here are a few basic thoughts for persons who are eligible and want to know how to get started.

1. The Medicare Enrollment Period begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. Insurance agents cannot sign anyone up until Oct. 15, but they can certainly begin talking with you.

2. This year, everyone gets a new Medicare card — everyone. You may have yours already.

3. Have you received a copy of “Medicare and You 2019” yet? If so, go through that booklet carefully.

It will, for one example, explain the difference between a Medicare Supplement Plan and a Medicare Advantage Plan. That’s an important place for you to begin your search for the best plan for you.

4. Do you currently take any ongoing medications? If so, I suggest you write those prescriptions down, including dosages, on a slip of paper and take it with you when you go to talk with an insurance agent. Medicare “D” is the prescription plan that may be included in plans you consider, or that plan may “stand alone”.

Either way, it will be important for you to know whether or not your current medications are included in the “formulary” (list of covered meds. that a particular plan uses. Also be aware of whether your medications are brand-name or generic drugs. That, too, makes a cost difference.

5. Consider attending the October 9 (next Tuesday. Geezer Forum about Medicare Enrollment. SHIBA’s Angie Mackin will once again be with us to introduce both the basics of Medicare and some of the changes that will occur in Medicare for 2019.

SHIBA (Senior Health Insurance Benefit Advisors. is a program of the Idaho Department of Insurance. They don’t sell Medicare! Their prime function is to help people understand how to navigate the Medicare Maze.

The Geezer Forum on Medicare Enrollment is next Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2:30-4 p.m. in the Columbia Bank’s Community Room. We hope you can join us there and then.

If you do the simple tasks I suggest, I’m confident your confusion will diminish and you will be able to enter into the “world of Medicare” with some confidence that your health insurance needs are properly covered.

Paul Graves, M.Div., is lead-geezer-in-training of Elder Advocates, a consulting ministry on aging issues. He can be reached at or by phone at 208-610-4971.

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