Medicare trend continues in Clark County

Fewer providers accepting original Medicare plans

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

Schedule of Events

In addition to offering one-on-one counseling, Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors will host community events where people can learn more about Medicare and how to enroll.

9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday at Firstenburg Community Center, 700 N.E. 136th Ave., Vancouver. Open enrollment clinic.

1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Vancouver. Presentation and question-and-answer period.

6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Legacy Medical Group-Fisher’s Landing, 16703 S.E. McGillivray Blvd., Suite 120, Vancouver. Presentation and question-and-answer period.

12:30 to 2 p.m. Oct. 30 at Luepke Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver. Open enrollment clinic.

10 a.m. to noon Nov. 11 at Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. Presentation and question-and-answer period.

1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 11 at Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. Open enrollment clinic.

Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their plan options for next year have to contend with a growing trend in Clark County: providers accepting only Medicare Advantage Plans.

The number of providers accepting original Medicare — even those with additional Tricare or Medigap plans — has been going down in Clark County over the last several years. This year, even fewer providers are accepting patients with any Medicare coverage other than Advantage Plans, said Gayle Mitchell, the program coordinator for Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors in Vancouver.

“It’s getting harder to find providers who accept Medicare,” Mitchell said.

The opposite is true in Skamania County, Mitchell said. There, Medicare beneficiaries don’t have the option of purchasing an Advantage Plan because no insurers are offering plans in the Gorge county, she said.

“We’re kind of the opposite,” Mitchell said. “We do have Medicare, but it’s getting harder to find the providers to give them the care they need.”

This week kicked off the start of the annual Medicare open enrollment period. Medicare beneficiaries have until Dec. 7 to review their plan options and make changes for their 2018 coverage.

For Clark County residents, not too much has changed when it comes to plan options and costs, Mitchell said.

“We’re happy that rates have not increased a great deal,” she said. “In fact, some have stayed the same or even gone down a few dollars.”

Medicare Part B premiums won’t be announced until later this year, but Mitchell expects a small increase.

One new insurer, PacificSource, has entered the local Advantage Plan market. Clark County residents can choose from about 30 Medicare Advantage Plans offered by eight companies. In addition, residents can choose from 22 drug plans, Mitchell said.

SHIBA recommends everyone review their current plan carefully, checking prescription drug coverage and copays and deductible amounts. Beneficiaries should also check with their provider’s office to ensure their plan is still being accepted, Mitchell said.

For those who need help comparing plans or reviewing their current coverage, SHIBA offers free counseling.

Hourlong appointments are available every Wednesday at 5411 E. Mill Plain Blvd. Suite 20. Call 360-947-2479 to schedule an appointment. Walk-in slots are available 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

One other change coming in 2018: new Medicare cards.

In an effort to prevent fraud and identity theft, the Social Security Administration is issuing new cards that will have unique, randomly assigned numbers that replace Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration will begin mailing the new beneficiary cards beginning in April.