Cabarrus offers free local help for Medicare open enrollment

The Adult & Aging Services division of Cabarrus County’s Department of Human Services is offering free one-on-one counseling on Medicare plans and exploration of options in health care benefits.

The one-on-one sessions are by appointment and are a service of the North Carolina Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).

Medicare enrollment is open through Dec. 7. During that time, any senior can compare, select and enroll in the plan that best meets their needs. All changes made during the open enrollment period will be effective Jan. 1.

“Plans change every year with respect to monthly premium costs, deductible costs on some plans, formulary (drug coverage) changes and health care costs, if this applies,” said Chasity Schooley, a social worker with the Cabarrus County DHS.

“This is why it is so important to review the plans each year and compare the current plan with other available options.”

Cabarrus County SHIIP volunteer and staff counselors have been trained and certified by the N.C. Department of Insurance to provide SHIIP and Medicare counseling to Medicare beneficiaries.

They can offer guidance on Medicare prescription drug plans, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplemental insurance, Social Security Low Income Subsidy and general Medicare information and options.

Cabarrus County SHIIP has participated in Medicare’s annual open enrollment since 2005. Last year, Cabarrus DHS helped more than 800 people navigate the labyrinth of health plans.

Most people want guidance on the best plans available for them, Schooley said, what their monthly health care costs will be and, if they qualify for Extra Help, a low-income subsidy that offsets costs of the prescription drug plan.

SHIIP counselors can assist with screenings and applications for the Social Security Low Income Subsidy to help pay for plan premiums and prescription co-payments.

“The right plan can be different for everyone. The best plans are determined on the beneficiary’s coverage needs for medications and health care,” she said.

“One-on-one SHIIP counseling is the best way to receive individualized information based on individual preferences for each beneficiary’s needs.”

Anyone with Medicare-related questions can call a SHIIP counselor, even if they are not enrolled in Medicare. A session with a counselor usually lasts about an hour.

The service is available 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays at the Cabarrus County Senior Center on Corban Avenue Southeast in Concord.

For an appointment call the Cabarrus County Department of Human Services at 704-920-1400 (option 7, then option 2). SHIIP counseling is provided throughout the year at DHS.