FOX 2 - It’s the countdown to Open Enrollment for Medicare - a time when recipients, many of them seniors, can join, switch, or drop a plan…But many recipients believe navigating this process is complicated and hard.
"I was a business technology Manager," Bill Rhodes said. "I’ve worked with technology but I find this Medicare site to be a little bit on the user belligerent side."
Rhodes found a better way to navigate his steps during Open Enrollment with the help a program called MMAP or Medicaid Medicare Assistance Program offered through the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.
That’s where he found the guidance of trained program volunteer Juliana Lord.
"The first time Juliana and I sat down we found that if I stayed on the same Medicare Part D plan as I had at that time, it was going to cost me $7,000 more the following year
If Juliana had not brought this to Bill’s attention… he would have paid $7,000 dollars out of pocket.
Juliana and the other program volunteers have a trained eye to find details many recipients often miss
"Every year they make changes for better or worse," Juliana said. "We go through trainings every month and training with Medicare in order to keep up-to-date."
It’s those constant changes plus lack of experience with technology that often makes Open Enrollment - which this year - starts October 15th, and ends December 7th, challenging.
Jennifer Lord, MMAP counselor
But MMAP provides its certified counselors throughout the year…to help recipients not only know their benefits but enroll in plans that work best for their budget
"We can break it down to the drugstore that’s their best choice for them could be a $100 difference," said Shari Smith, manager of MMAP.
The MMAP program also has another benefit, there’s no charge to participate and all Medicare recipients are eligible
"I call it a benefits check-up," said Smith.
Lord started volunteering nine years ago for the program after she received help as a participant, and she encourages others who can serve as a volunteer to do the same.
"If you would like to volunteer we can use all the help we can get," Lord said.
Due to Covid, volunteers meet with participants via Zoom or phone.
"Last year even with Covid, we saved our six-county region over $2 million dollars," Smith said.
For detail on how you can participate, call the Agency on Aging 1-B at 1-800-852-7795 or go online HERE.