Every year many Montanans become eligible for Medicare health insurance coverage. It’s an important rite of passage for many as they transition from employer or individual plans into this Federal health insurance program. It is also an important choice which each and every Montana Medicare beneficiary should be aware of and make for themselves.

In a nutshell, every person has an initial election period (IEP) when they can choose their Medicare coverage including Parts A, B and D. This period begins three months before they become eligible for Medicare.

It is vital Montanans understand the Medicare sign-up process and their plan options. Health insurance coverage is important and there are limited opportunities to change your plan once you are enrolled. While some special election periods do apply, in general, if you are enrolled in a plan this month, you may not be able to actually change plans, including Part D Prescription Drug coverage, until the annual election period (AEP). This year the AEP begins on Thursday, Oct. 15, and runs through Monday, Dec. 7. At that time your new plan will be in place Jan. 1, 2016.

These are big decisions and need to be researched and considered closely. Paying close attention to the details can help Medicare beneficiaries save time and money during 2015 and beyond.

Montana Medicare beneficiaries need to consider many important details when making their Medicare choices:

• Coverage: Does the plan cover the services and prescriptions you need?

• Cost: What does the plan cost? What are the co-pays and deductibles?

• Convenience: Is it easy to reach someone at the company if you have a question?

High-quality, affordable health care is a necessity for all Montanans, especially Medicare beneficiaries. Our mission at New West Medicare is to improve quality of care, enhance member experience and decrease health care costs. New West Medicare is Montana’s only not-for-profit provider-sponsored health plan. Currently, we serve more than 18,800 Montanans offering individual Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement plans and Medicare Advantage plans for retiree groups. New West has been in operation since 1998 and is a licensed health services corporation holding a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) contract since 2005.

We understand how important this coverage is and have local representatives hosting meetings around the state each month to provide straightforward information on Medicare plans. Remember, you can select your plan up to three months ahead of the month you become Medicare eligible. Don’t procrastinate. Start your research now, attend a meeting, visit a website – get the information you need to make an informed decision that best fits you. You’ll be glad you did. 

Angela Huschka is the interim CEO and CFO of New West Health Services, headquartered in Helena. She joined the company in 2003. Huschka has 14 years of experience in Montana state government, including six years at the Montana Department of Insurance. 

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