Conflicting advice about Medicare insurance plans is confusing Central Oregon seniors.
St. Charles Health System put out a recommendation last week to avoid Medicare Advantage insurance plans and instead sign up for original Medicare.
This week, Summit Health told its patients it likes the Medicare Advantage plans and works well with the private companies that manage them.
The message from local Medicare counselors about the situation: Don’t panic.
“Many people are saying ‘I’m confused. I’m hearing something about St. Charles. I hear something about Medicare Advantage and I have X, Y, Z insurance company. What do I need to do’”? said Sally Heise.
Heise is a volunteer with the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance program. She helps seniors sift through Medicare’s many insurance plans to enroll in the government-provided health insurance for people 65 and over.
“Right now, we still don’t know enough to know whether you need to panic or not. Whether you need to make a change or not,” Heise said.
Heise says there is always uncertainty leading up to the Medicare open enrollment period October 15 through December 7.
Insurance companies adjust their plans, coverage and prices each year. St. Charles is negotiating with the Medicare Advantage plan providers while encouraging locals to switch to basic Medicare.
“We have been hearing quite a bit of concern, confusion and questions about what they need to do and should they be in a panic. The answer right now is: No,” said Tia Linschied, Council on Aging program administrator. “Until you receive a letter from St. Charles stating your Medicare Advantage plan is being dropped, there’s really nothing for you to do at this point.”
The Central Oregon Council on Aging stands ready to refer any senior with questions about health insurance to volunteers who are trained to help people enroll in Medicare.
Summit Health says a unilateral decision by St. Charles to end participation in all Medicare Advantage contracts would “significantly impact” well over 25,000 Central Oregon seniors.