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October 4, 2011 > Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Oct. 15

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Oct. 15

Find Out What You Need to Know at Upcoming Free Seminars

October 15 is almost here, and that marks the beginning of this year's open enrollment period for Medicare. More than 43 million Americans are enrolled in the government-sponsored health insurance program. The vast majority of these people are 65 or older, but Medicare also covers qualified Americans younger than 65 who are permanently disabled.

The Medicare open enrollment period that will take effect in 2012 begins in mid-October and ends on December 7. These dates have been changed from previous years.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommends that enrollees stay abreast of changes in their Medicare coverage, which includes Part A for hospital charges; Part B for doctors, tests, and other services; and Part D, which covers prescription drugs.

Medicare enrollees may also purchase supplemental insurance called Medigap to help pay for charges not covered by Medicare. Supplemental coverage varies, depending on which plan the enrollee selects. Or, they can elect to purchase an Advantage plan, which works like an HMO, or health maintenance organization.

As a service to the community, Washington Hospital is offering free seminars to assist people in learning about their Medicare coverage and to explain changes occurring in 2012. In addition to current enrollees, people who are approaching 65 and expect to enroll in Medicare during 2012 will also benefit from the information presented at the seminars.

"People should understand the way Medicare works," explains Linda Dawal, Health Insurance Information Service Coordinator at Washington Hospital. "This is also a good opportunity for family members, who are assisting their elderly parents or relatives, to learn more about Medicare."

Dawal and her colleague, Health Insurance Information Service Coordinator Kristi Caracappa, will lead the sessions. The coordinators have extensive experience helping people get the health care coverage they need, whether through low cost or free community programs or through government- sponsored programs. Since 2005, they have been leading free Medicare information seminars during open enrollment. Washington Hospital's Health Insurance Information Service is free, confidential and available to everyone, no matter where they live or who their doctor or hospital is.

Upcoming seminars will include:
Medicare Open Enrollment: Changes for 2012
Date/Time: Monday, October 10 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
Location: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms B & C, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West).

During the seminar, people will learn how Medicare works, including Parts A and B, and about changes that will take place on January 1, 2012. In addition, Dawal and Caracappa will talk about options to supplement Medicare and the difference between Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Is Coming Up - Are You Ready? (Two Sessions)
Date: Thursday, October 13 & Friday, October 14
Time: 10 a.m. to Noon
Location: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms B & C, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West).

This seminar will also help explain to enrollees the importance of looking into their Medicare prescription drug plan and how the plan works. During the presentation, Dawal and Caracappa will discuss the coverage gap in Part D, also known at the donut hole.

"It's vitally important that people review their Medicare Part D annually and know what changes are occurring," says Caracappa. "For example, plans have the option to make adjustments to the list of covered drugs or to increase or decrease premiums or deductibles. If you don't learn about these changes until after the open enrollment period, you will have to wait another year before selecting a different plan."

To reserve your spot in any of the seminars, go online to and look under Upcoming Seminars, or call (800) 963-7070.

Each seminar will include time for questions and answers. People who need additional information and assistance in reviewing their Medicare plan can make a free appointment with the Health Insurance Information Service coordinators by calling (800) 770-9447, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Selecting or changing Medicare prescription drug insurance can be confusing. In Alameda County alone, people can choose from 33 different plans. During appointments, Dawal and Caracappa use the Web site to help find the best plan for each individual they assist.

Dawal and Caracappa are available throughout the open enrollment period to assist enrollees with their individual questions related to Medicare. In addition to meeting with clients in their offices in Washington West, they will also be available at senior centers in the community. On Mondays between October 17 and December 5, they will be at the Newark Senior Center (510-578-4840). On Thursdays between October 20 and December 1, they will be at the Ruggieri Senior Center (510) 675-5495 in Union City. Seniors should call the senior centers to make appointment between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Learn More

To learn more about the Washington Health Insurance Information Service or about Medicare, visit or call (800) 770-9447.

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