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Charlotte, Florida – The deadline for people to make changes to Medicare Advantage plans is approaching soon.

During what is called a dis-enrollment period, from now until Feb. 14, people with Medicare Advantage plans can switch back to Original Medicare or return to Original Medicare and join a prescription drug plan.

The period is not for switching from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan, though.

There have been at least a few dozen clients so far this year who have wanted to switch back to Original Medicare due to provider and service restrictions, according to information from the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida.

There are two pathways to receive Medicare. Original Medicare is the government plan with a more comprehensive level of service, but it comes with a price tag — for premiums and prescriptions.

Medicare Advantage plans look more like employer health insurance, and are private insurance plans, according to the AAASWFL.

The Advantage plans also may have additional premiums on top of Original Medicare, but have different out-of-pocket costs, deductibles and co-pays, including an out-of-pocket maximum.

“Because Medicare Advantage is private insurance, beneficiaries usually need to choose in-network providers, get referrals for specialists and get procedures pre-authorized,” according to information from AAASWFL.

Through the end of November, counselors through SHINE — Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders — assisted 943 Charlotte County residents and 1,764 Sarasota County residents with general counseling and enrollments.

“Preference depends on the financial stability of the beneficiary and the service area,” according to AASWFL.

“Most beneficiaries who are able to afford the premiums under Original Medicare prefer that option as it is less restrictive in terms of providers and geographic areas,” said Camilita Aldridge, SHINE liaison for AAASWFL. “For folks who are dual-eligible (both Medicare and Medicaid), as long as they are able to find a Medicaid provider, they also prefer to remain on Original Medicare.”

For help understanding the Medicare Advantage Dis-enrollment Period, or to set up an appointment with a trained counselor to help with questions, individuals may call the Elder Helpline at 866-41-ELDER.

Email: Apraegitzer@sun-herald.com

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http://www.wftv.com/news/florida/deadline-for-changes-to-medicare-advantage-plans-feb-14/695025160