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A national organization and a local insurance specialist offer help in understanding the changes

Medicare's open enrollment period begins Oct. 15 and a local insurance specialist is offering folks help in understanding how changes in health care and drug plan coverage will affect them.

"Congress passed a number of changes in 2015 that will now take effect and can significantly impact seniors in our area," said Om Sukheenai, a broker for Chehalem Insurance Associates in Newberg.

Jess Slome, director of the national trade organization American Association for Medicare Supplement Insurance, had even more dire news: "Medigap Plans C and F, two of the more popular options among seniors, are being eliminated. The infamous Medicare Donut Hole, which has been costly for some with Medicare prescription drug plans, will be closed and seniors with Part D plan should certainly review their options before the end of the year."

Slome and other Medicare experts advise that open enrollment is "generally the best time to review and get ready for the next year," she said. "But act early because local Medicare insurance professionals are busiest during this time of year."

Sukheenai offered some simple advice for those on Medicare as well:

Review your plan notice: Due to the forthcoming changes in 2020, be sure to read any notices you receive from your Medicare plan prior to the open enrollment period. In particular, review the notices for any changes that could impact drugs you take or the doctors and specialists you prefer.

Anticipate your 2020 health care needs: Medicare recipients know better than anyone else what changes in their health took place in 2019, and what medical services and drugs they will likely need in the coming year. Those anticipating changes in their health care needs would be wise to inquire if another Medicare plan might provide better service and could reduce costs.

"Open enrollment only lasts 62 days (and is) a vital time period to review and make decisions," Sukheenai said. "It's going to be important to start the review process early because there are no extensions."

Sukheenai provides no-cost reviews and comparisons of Medicare plans available in the area. For more information, call her at 503-538-6022.

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