Forums to provide help comparing Medicare Advantage plans

Seniors attending public forums this month can learn about changes to Medicare Advantage plan premiums and benefits for 2015.

The Medicare program’s fall enrollment period will run from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. It’s the time for adults age 65 and older to enroll in a Medicare health plan or make changes to their coverage for medical care and prescription drugs.

Stanislaus County’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program holds the annual forums to help residents compare the eight Medicare Advantage plans available in the county. The meetings will be held in Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale and Patterson.

The approved Medicare Advantage plans in Stanislaus County include AARP-Secure Horizons, CareMore, Health Net, Humana, Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage, Care1st, Citizens Choice and Easy Choice.

Offered by private insurers and subsidized by the federal government, the health plans cover hospitalization, doctor visits, emergency care, surgery, imaging, lab work and prescription drugs. The plans also have dental and vision services. The monthly premiums for most plans ranged from zero to $90 a month this year, on top of the Medicare Part B cost of $104.90 per month.

Many people opt for the plans because traditional Medicare covers about 80 percent of hospital costs with no annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses. People may see lower costs and improved benefits by changing health plans. But they need to make sure the new plan is accepted by their doctors and covers their medications.

Speakers also will discuss any changes to the basic Medicare program and prescription drug coverage. The forums are set for:

• Oct. 22, 9 to 11 a.m., Hammon Senior Center in Patterson, 1033 W. Las Palmas Ave.

• Oct. 23, 9 to 11 a.m., Modesto Senior Center, 211 Bodem St. near Scenic Drive

• Oct. 28, 1 to 3 p.m., Gladys Lemmons Center in Oakdale, 450 E. A St.

• Oct. 31, 1 to 3 p.m., Turlock Senior Citizens Center, 1191 Cahill St.

For more information on the Medicare program, call the HICAP office in Modesto at (209) 558-4540.