Seniors: How to prepare for open enrollment

Seniors: How to prepare for open enrollment
(File photo)

By Nelva Hernandez 

Each year, employees who get health insurance through their employers are familiar with the open enrollment period, the time frame to make changes to their health insurance options.

Medicare beneficiaries also have an open enrollment period, which goes from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. During open enrollment, beneficiaries can enroll in a Part D Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Beneficiaries can also switch the company providing their Part D prescription drug coverage or Medicare Advantage Plan, if they find a plan that is cheaper or better meets their needs. All changes become effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Alexandrians will have 27 Medicare prescription plans to choose from with premiums ranging from $14.50 to $93.30, and a maximum deductible of $415. Plans will also limit initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a seven-day supply and beneficiaries will need their doctor’s authorizations for refills.

Every recipient should review their Medicare insurance coverage during the open enrollment period. Plans often change the medications they cover, the cost of the drugs covered and premiums. Medicare beneficiaries should check every year to ensure their medication coverage and their plan remains

Beneficiaries can evaluate their insurance costs using the plan finder tool at This tool can be personalized to input your medications and find out costs for your prescriptions.

Residents can also receive a personalized benefits checkup from Alexandria’s Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program at the Division of Aging and Adult Services.

Residents can call 703-746-5999 to request a telephone or in-person consultation or submit a request for services on the program’s website at

Alexandria City’s VICAP program also offers workshops for city residents
to understand their open enrollment options. Open enrollment workshops are scheduled on Oct. 30 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Burke Library and on Dec. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Beatley Library. To register please call 703-7465999 or send an email to:

Open enrollment is a good time for Medicare beneficiaries to review their Medicare Summary Notices. Summary notices list all the medical services received and the names of the providers. Beneficiaries should ensure their statements are accurate and consult the provider about any unrecognized charges. This helps prevent fraud and also ensures that you are not denied services later because they were already billed to you.

Alexandria’s Medicare beneficiaries received their new Medicare cards beginning in April. These cards have a unique number that replaced social security numbers. Medicare beneficiaries should ensure they have received their new card and shred the old cards, or contact 1-800-MEDICARE if they did not receive a new card.

Beneficiaries should keep their Medicare card secure and keep careful records of conversations with Medicare representatives about their insurance benefits. Ask representatives for their names, record the date of the call and the information received. You may need this information if you need to appeal incorrect information that adversely affects your benefits.

The Medicare federal health insurance program serves 44 million people. Most beneficiaries are 65 or older but some beneficiaries are younger individuals with disabilities and people with End-Stage-Renal Disease. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the federal agency that administers Medicare.

VICAP offers free, unbiased counseling to individuals about Medicare
benefits and related insurance issues. The Alexandria City VICAP program
is managed by the Division of Aging and Adult Services.

The program offers individualized consultations to Alexandria City
residents. For more information, call 703-746-5999 or visit

Nelva Hernandez is VICAP coordinator for the City of Alexandria’s Division of Aging and Adult Services.