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Medicare open enrollment deadline approaches

There’s less than a month until the Dec. 7 deadline, when Medicare’s open enrollment period ends.

Blaine Longnecker, a sales consultant out of Syracuse’s Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield office, said seniors eligible for the federal health insurance program who are looking to change their plan shouldn't bide their time.

“You want to make sure if you’re going to make a change, to get it done and get it in," Longnecker said. "It happens every year. Someone feels they postmarked their request before Dec. 7, but lo and behold, given the holidays and the snail mail, it doesn’t get received by the insurance company until after Dec. 7, and that insurance company cannot honor that enrollment for Jan. 1.”

Longnecker said seniors should use this open enrollment period to look at other plans. He said it's important for seniors to consider changes in policies from year to year, and changes in their own needs.   

Longnecker also said there are also some trends in Medicare coverage, including one that helps seniors who may head south for the winter.

"These plans used to be regional in scope. So if you were here in central New York, it covered you for central New York, and only covered you for emergency and urgent situations if you were outside of central New York. But that whole landscape is changing where networks are filtering across the United States, so people can have coverage across the country," Longnecker said.

Medicare plans aren’t affected by the Affordable Care Act, which is also enrolling Americans for health care plans right now.

"When we tell them the Affordable Care Act will not impact people who are Medicare eligible, that gives them a sign of relief," Longnecker said.

While the Medicare health plans aren’t affected by the Affordable Care Act, Longnecker said the Part D prescription portion of Medicare coverage is, by decreasing the amount some seniors pay for prescription coverage,

“They started it in 2010, it ends in 2020. And each year, on the doughnut hole portion of the Part D coverage, they’re changing the cost share, shifting the large share to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies and the lower share to the enrollee,” Longnecker said.

 Longnecker said it’s a good idea for seniors just to see what's out there, because different products come on the market, that might be a better fit for an individual.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.