October 20, 2011

Insurance department offers assistance during Medicare open enrollment

Free counseling available from CLAIM program

Jefferson City, Mo. - With open enrollment for the Medicare prescription drug plan a month earlier than in previous years, the Missouri Department of Insurance is reminding consumers that it offers a free service to help them choose the Medicare plan that best fits their needs.

The CLAIM program, funded by the department and Medicare, offers free, expert advice to Missourians on Medicare or their loved ones. Consumers can ask questions by phone or arrange one-on-one counseling by calling 800-390-3330 or visiting missouriclaim.org

Open enrollment, which began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, is a good time for Missourians to review their current plans, make certain changes or choose other plans that best suit their needs. The first day of open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare drug plans is one month earlier than its traditional start of Nov. 15.

"The CLAIM program is an ideal option for Missourians who are searching for the right plan for them when it comes to Medicare coverage," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "The program has highly trained counselors who help consumers with what can be difficult and often complex decisions."

CLAIM will be hosting free events throughout Missouri during the open enrollment period. Consumers are invited to attend and get their Medicare questions answered by skilled counselors. A list of events is available by calling CLAIM or visiting missouriclaim.org.

CLAIM can also help consumers determine whether they qualify for federal or state help in paying for prescription drugs on a limited income. Medicare offers the Extra Help program, and the state offers the MoRx program.

Huff also wants to remind seniors, health care providers and others to be cautious of unscrupulous salespeople during the open enrollment period. Huff, along with a Medicare official, sent out a letter last month to home health workers across the state asking them to report insurance agents and other salespeople who violate Medicare solicitation rules.

The letter also provided a list of acceptable and forbidden sales practices for agents selling Medicare.