The good news, experts say, is that with a little patience and
preparation, enrolling doesn't have to be a pain.
"It's really not that complicated," said Sue Tarvin, an insurance
specialist who works with Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. "We
have six months, which is a good thing."
Medicare patients can begin enrolling Nov. 15, and they have until
next May 15 to sign up. Even so, Jeff Flick, a regional administrator
at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he expects
the largest enrollment activity to take place before Dec. 31, as
Medicare recipients try to ensure they'll be covered on Jan. 1.
There are benefits, however, to taking one's time.
Julie Schoen, legal counsel for the Orange County Council on
Aging, said one of her concerns is that people will feel pressure to
register for a plan right away and might hastily enroll in something
that doesn't suit them or their needs.
Schoen said it's important for people to take the time to do the
research and find the plan that best meets their prescription drug
A number of resources -- including the Health Insurance Counseling
and Advocacy Program through the Council on Aging -- are available,
Flick said there will be a number of resources available for
people who need help, as well as Web tools and a phone system that
can help identify plans specific to a person's area.
Starting Oct. 13, enrollees can examine their options at
o7www.medicare.govf7 or by calling (800) MEDICARE. Users need to
know what prescriptions they take, the pharmacy they use, their ZIP
Code and their Medicare identification number.
"We can do a very fast search and identify all the plans in their
area," Flick said, adding that the feature will show the top three
plans. "If they don't like the top three, we can give them four and
Flick also said the search feature can check to see if a person's
preferred pharmacy is in the network. He said it takes about 15
minutes to conduct a search of all the plans in a person's area and
about 30 minutes to enroll in a plan.