3 things AL Medicare recipients need to know

3 things AL Medicare recipients need to know

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The state of Alabama is always looking for ways to keep senior citizens in the loop about changes that could affect their healthcare coverage, according to Sharon Jalieba who oversees the Alabama Department of Senior Services' State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

Jalieba says there is an even bigger push each year when the open enrollment period starts. This year, open enrollment runs from Oct. 15 until Dec. 7.

"Some of our coordinators like to mail out postcards and fliers to our beneficiaries to remind them so that they can make changes to their drug coverage or their plans, in general, if they choose," Jalieba said.

She said it is always important for Medicare recipients to check in every year to make sure they are enrolled in the most cost-effective, helpful plan. However, she said there are changes going into play in 2017.

"It's not a ton of changes, but the few changes that are going to take place will impact a lot of our beneficiaries," Jalieba said.

Sandra Whatley, who heads the state health insurance assistance program in the River Region, said there are three big changes that are sure to affect thousands.

According to Whatley, AARP's Medicare Complete Plans will no longer be available in Elmore Country, Cigna-HealthSpring is no longer accepting new enrollments and Cigna-HealthSpring will no longer cover services from any of Baptist Health System's facilities. She said all of these changes will go into effect on Dec. 31.

When asked about the change, Baptist Health released this statement:

All Baptist Health facilities and physician clinics welcome Cigna-HealthSpring insured patients.  We are happy to process their claims, which are considered out-of-network and may result in higher co-pays, according to their insurance plan.

Whatley said that whenever changes like these occur, there is usually a 60 to 90-day grace period for customers to re-enroll and find a new plan. However, she said it is safer for senior citizens, who tend to need more healthcare services, to stay on top of it so they never have to go without. Still, she said she anticipates there will be calls from people who were not informed.

"We will get the call from Ms. Sally, who is at the pharmacy and needs her medicine, needs her insulin, needs her blood pressure medicine and doesn't have a plan," Whatley said.

Jalieba and Whatley say there are multiple ways senior citizens can take advantage of the state's free Medicare checkup.

They can call 1-800-AGE-LINE to make an appointment or go to alabamaageline.gov to see the full list of informational events.

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