Fred will celebrate his 65th birthday in September.  He is excited about the opportunity to retire from his job of 30 years, but a little nervous about his health insurance.

Fred wonders if he should sign up for traditional Medicare and which supplemental insurance plan might be best for him.   He wonders also if his health insurance from his current employer will provide any benefits.  And, there is Medicare Part B and Part D to consider. He has heard a lot about the Medicare Advantage Plans, but he is not sure which one would be the most affordable and beneficial for him.  And, there HMOs and PPOs to consider.

Fred feels like he is swimming in the “alphabet soup” of health insurance.

Fred is not alone, as people who will be celebrating their 65th birthdays during the coming year have many important decisions to make,  and a very complicated and changing maze of health insurance regulations through which to journey.

For folks who are past their 65th birthday and are Medicare eligible, Fall is a very important time of year.  Open Enrollment occurs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 every year when Medicare beneficiaries can change their coverage.

Options include  joining a new Medicare Advantage plan or  joining a stand-alone prescription drug plan.  You can also opt for original Medicare and choose a Medigap policy that will help pay for the costs of health care not covered by Medicare.

Open Enrollment offers the opportunity to evaluate your stand alone Part D drug plan.  Review the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and/or the Evidence of Coveage (EOC) notices for changes in the plan’s costs, benefits and rules for the coming year aare usually issued in late summer or early fall.    You will want to choose Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that will offer you the bedt health and drug coverage at the most affordable price.

If you enroll in a plan during Fall Open Enrollment, your coverage starts Jan. 1.

If you feel trapped in the maze of Medicare health insurance rules and regulations and unsure of the right path for you or a loved one, there is help available.

The Ohio Department of Insurance can offer assistance through the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, (OSHIIP).  Since, 1992, OSHIIP’s trained staff and network of more than 1,300 volunteers throughout Ohio have been educating consumers about Medicare and other senior insurance topics such as long-term care insurance.

OSHIIP is funded by a federal grant and by the state of Ohio. The Ohio Department of Insurance in Columbus administers the program.  OSHIIP has counseled more than 435,000 people saving Ohio consumers over $3.6 million. OSHIIP staff and volunteers have distributed more than 1,000,000 publications and established more than 20 information sites.

The Ohio Department of Insurance and OHSIIP have produced many consumer friendly publications. Brochures are available detailing Ohio Medicare Savings Programs and Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. Ohio Shoppers Guides available include:

  • Medicare Options, Supplemental Insurance and Part D
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Annuity Contracts
  • Auto, Home and Life Insurance

Any of the OSHIIP hotline staff or community volunteers will answer questions about:

  • Medicare coverage for seniors and people under age 65 with disabilities
  • Medicare prescription drug plans
  • Medicare Advantage Plans
  • Medicare supplemental insurance
  • Financial assistance programs for people with limited income
  • Long-Term care insurance

The OSHIIP hotline staff can be reached at 1-800-686-1578.  Brochures and publications can be ordered by calling 1-800-686-1526 or viewed on the website:

To provide area residents turning age 65 this year with information to make educated decisions about health insurance coverage, OSHIIP programs have been scheduled  Tuesday, May 17 at Murphy Auditorium on the campus of Copeland Oaks in Sebring.  The program will be presented at 2 P.M. and repeated at 6 P.M. with time for questions and answers.

“Everyone knows someone covered by Medicare or soon to be eligible for Medicare.  Many people call OSHIIP or attend Ohio Department of Insurance programs to get information for their parents, grandparents, family members or friends who are covered by Medicare.  If someone close to you is on Medicare, one way you can help is by taking time to understand Medicare yourself,” said Mary Walker, RN, coordinator for community information at Copeland Oaks and a certified OSHIIP volunteer counselor.