Annually, when Medicare Open Enrollment comes around, it is the time to double-check your Medicare and prescription drug plans for the following year.  For 2013, the Medicare Open Enrollment is from October 15 to December 7, 2012.  SAGE Eldercare SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) counselors are taking appointments now to assist area older adults with their Medicare-related options.

If you are 65 years or older or under 65 with certain disabilities, then you qualify for Medicare health insurance.  The different parts of Medicare help cover specific services – part A covers hospital insurance; part B covers doctor’s visits; part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and offers health plan options run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies; and, part D covers Medicare prescription drugs.

“Prior to the Medicare open enrollment period, it is a good idea to reassess your coverage and costs, which can change yearly.  Even if your current Medicare advantage plan and your drug prescription benefits are working for you, it’s a good idea to check your plan annually,” stated Elyse Drucker, Union County SHIP counselor at SAGE Eldercare.  “The only way to save on your health care costs is compare the current plan to other Medicare plans available to you, either offered by your provider or other health insurance companies.“

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It is also recommended that you obtain advice and guidance from someone who is not affiliated with a particular health care insurance company so that you can compare plans.  Personalized Medicare counseling is available, free of charge, from State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselors.

SAGE Eldercare serves as the SHIP representative for Union County.  Staff and volunteers are available for free, personalized, confidential and objective Medicare counseling on decisions about coverage; help with claims, billing, or appeals; and provide information on programs for people with limited income and resources, as well as to help you reassess your 2013 coverage.

SAGE Eldercare SHIP counselors can be reached at 908.273.6999 or by email at ship@sageeldercare.org.  If you live outside Union County, visit www.medicare.gov/contacts or call 1800MEDICARE to get the phone numbers of SHIP representatives in other NJ counties or in other U.S. states.

 SAGE Eldercare supports the independence, well-being and quality of life of older adults, their families and caregivers, through the provision of client-centered health, social and support services.  Founded in 1954, SAGE is one of the few non-profit eldercare agencies in the United States, and the oldest in New Jersey, that offers a broad and comprehensive array of services under one roof that assist elderly, often frail, adults to remain independent in their own homes. 

Programs at SAGE Eldercare include: HomeCare; Meals On Wheels; Spend-A-Day Adult Day Health Center; GPS (Guidance Planning Support) Services; InfoCare free information and referral service; Fall Prevention Initiative; Home Repair Service; Grocery Shopping and Errand Service; Bill Paying Service; Holistic Living Services; Alzheimer’s and PREP caregiver support groups; Community Education; and Union County Medicare SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program).  In addition, SAGE has operated a Furniture Restoration Workshop, run by volunteers who specialize in caning and rushing chairs and refinishing furniture, and a Resale Shop for more than 50 years.  Both provide essential funding that supports the organization’s programs and services for seniors in the community. 

 SAGE Eldercare serves over 6,000 people throughout Union, Essex, Morris and Somerset Counties, as well as across the United States.  For more information, call 908.273.5550 or visit www.sageeldercare.org.