Medicare Advantage insurance option comes to Routt
All Medicare recipients encouraged to check out choices
Yampa resident and Soroco Middle School basketball coach Bob Suehrstedt is looking forward to saving hundreds of dollars per month on health care premiums and prescriptions now that Routt County has an official Medicare Advantage insurance option available starting January 2022.
The 68-year-old retiree has worked hard to manage his type 1 diabetes since he was diagnosed at 25 by staying active and trying to eat healthy. But Suehrstedt needs two types of insulin daily and uses a continuous glucose monitor, which has a small wearable sensor with a probe just beneath the skin. The monitor has a transmitter that sends glucose numbers via Bluetooth to his smartphone every five minutes.
An alarm sounds when his glucose levels are off, even during the night, which usually wakes up Suehrstedt’s wife first, the couple says with a laugh.
Suehrstedt recently found out switching to the Medicare Advantage option for 2022, which previously was not available in the smaller communities of Routt and Moffat counties, would save him $335 per month in insurance premiums and costs for insulin. He also found a doctor for his diabetes in Steamboat Springs, so he does not have to travel to the Front Range for quarterly check-ups.
Hundreds of Yampa Valley residents could benefit from and should take a close look at Medicare Advantage during the current Medicare annual open enrollment period, said Rebekah Greenwood, Northwest Colorado Medicare SHIP coordinator.
Leigh Hull, aging services coordinator for Northwest Colorado Health, said when she moved to the Yampa Valley, “I was shocked to find there was no Advantage plan in the area.”
Having a true Medicare Advantage starting next year locally is “a fantastic thing for a lot of people,” Greenwood said. “It’s an available option for everyone on Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, including people who have Medicare because of disability.”
Medicare is available to people 65 and older or for certain people with disabilities. Medicare Advantage is now available locally through Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a UnitedHealthcare company.
What: Medicare Advantage health insurance option now available for Routt County residents for 2022
When: Medicare open annual enrollment deadline Dec. 7
Help: Local assistance for navigating Medicare options is provided by SHIP, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program, where staff and volunteers provide phone, virtual or in-person appointments during open enrollment. Call 970-819-6401.
More info: Medicare.gov
April Sigman, executive director of Routt County Council on Aging, said the addition of the Medicare Advantage option “is great news for local seniors.”
“It’s a great opportunity for many people to save money on their health care, but it’s not a fit for everyone,” Greenwood said. “Make sure you do your research.”
According to Medicare.gov, Medicare Advantage is a Medicare-approved plan from a private company that offers an alternative to Original Medicare for health and drug coverage. In most cases, Medicare Advantage clients need to use doctors who are in the plan’s network. The plans may have lower out-of-pocket costs than Original Medicare and may offer some extra benefits that Original Medicare does not cover such as vision, hearing and dental services.
For help with researching Medicare, which can be complicated and very specific per individual, Yampa Valley residents can talk with a staff or volunteer counselor from SHIP, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program, Greenwood said. Some 120 people from Routt and Moffat counties have reached out to local SHIP counselors in the past three weeks during the open enrollment period for Medicaid. Greenwood’s team also traveled to regional senior citizen centers to talk about the health care insurance options.
The coordinator encourages all Medicare recipients to review the plans during the current fall annual enrollment as the plans change each year.
“We encourage people to review plan options every year during open enrollment to save money on prescriptions and premiums. We encourage Medicare recipients with low incomes to check out what discounts they might quality for,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood noted the local Medicare Advantage may not work well for people who live in Routt County for part of the year and out of state for the other part of the year. She believes the Yampa Valley has a sufficient level of providers that accept Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. SHIP counselors and staff are also available for free year-round to answer questions.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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