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Make sure you have a Medicare plan that works for you

RIDGECREST REGIONAL HOSPITAL (RRH) — From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, seniors have important decisions to make about Medicare coverage during the open enrollment period.

“We are encouraging patients in our area to conduct careful research before enrolling into any Medicare Advantage plans,” said Michelle Whalley, clinic administrator of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital’s Rural Health.

“We get that people want to save money, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure that you are taken care of,” said Whalley.

Many HMO and Medicare Advantage plans will not cover visits to local clinics or services at the hospital. This has been a problem in the past with some patients who did not realize the consequences of changing plans.

“A person selling different plans may highlight lower premiums, but it’s important to understand the tradeoffs,” said Whalley. Purchasing an “advantage” plan is private insurance, which no longer qualifies individuals for traditional Medicare benefits.

“If you have to travel 100 miles for routine care or have higher co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs, that may ultimately make an alternative to traditional Medicare more expensive.”

She also noted that in the event of a medical emergency, some plans do not include coverage that “travels” with you. “So if you are away from home and have an unforeseen medical emergency, you could incur significant costs for out-of-network care.”

“When you make the decision about your healthcare coverage, make sure that you are considering all the factors. Every hospital in America accepts Medicare, but that is not true for plans like Medicare Advantage.”

Basic information about coverage is available at Seniors looking for assistance can also reach out to the California Health Insurance Counseling and Medical Advocacy Program(HICAP). HICAP representatives do not sell policies but can offer objective information to patients.

Local HICAP representatives can be reached at 661-868-1000.