COLUMN: Medicare Open Enrollment for 2022 coming to close

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The fall Open Enrollment period for 2022 is rapidly coming to a close.

You still have until Tuesday, Dec. 7 to review, and if you so choose, make changes in your Medicare coverage for the coming year. To get an update on the Open Enrollment Period, I contacted Joan Hyde, the Aging Services supervisor with the Oneida County Office for the Aging/Continuing Care/NY Connects.

During October the HIICAP program served 331 clients, according to Hyde.  By Nov. 11, they had served an additional 150 clients, either in face-to-face appointments or by phone. 

“The majority of clients have requested assistance in reviewing their current plans.  Many have made changes due to the cost of their medications,” Hyde said. “They are shocked in the changes in the costs of their meds. A few are terminating their current plans and need new coverage. And, there are a handful of clients who are new to Medicare.”

Hyde said she “strongly encourages” beneficiaries to contact HIICAP and review their current Part D coverage.

“I am finding their old plans are not covering all their meds,” she said.

For 2022 the HIICAP program expects to continue with their current plan of assisting clients by appointment only. However, the HIICAP program has not yet been advised on exactly how they will serve clients beginning in 2022.

Open Enrollment Counseling Contact Procedures for the Remainder of 2021. After over a year of phone counseling only, the Oneida County HIICAP program has returned to in-person counseling sessions with some important restrictions. First, when you arrive at your appointment, you must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. You will also be required to wear a mask at all times while you are in the building. In-person counseling sessions will be provided at the following two locations:

Copper City Community Connection, 305 E. Locust St., will offer assistance on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Copper City will serve clients on a “by appointment only” basis.  Do not call the center directly for an appointment.  Instead, you will need to call the main office of the HIICAP program at 315-798-5456 and ask for Joan.  Joan Hyde will be making all the appointments for Copper City.

North Utica Senior Citizens Center, 50 Riverside Drive, Utica with hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Sessions are expected to run 45 minutes.  Consumers will be assisted at the North Utica Center on a “first, come, first served” basis.  However, if you want to call ahead to see how busy the office is you may call the center’s HIICAP program at 315-724-8680.

The Oneida County Office for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects HIICAP office is continuing to provide counseling services by phone as they have throughout the pandemic.

If you would like to do a HIICAP counseling session over the phone call 315-798-5456 and select No. 2 from the choice list. In most cases you will be asked to leave your contact information on a voice mail and a staff member will return your call within 72 hours (three business days).

Medicare Part B Premiums to Increase for 2022. As reported last month, starting in January, 2022 Social Security benefits will increase by 5.9% for all beneficiaries, disabled veterans and federal retirees. This will be an additional $92 per month for the average retired worker, the most significant increase in almost 40 years. 

This increase will be offset, in part, by a 14.5% increase in the Medicare Part B premium for married couples with an annual income below $176,000 a year. This will result in the current $148.50 per month premium increasing to $170.10 per month starting January.

According to CNBC financial news, this past summer the program’s trustees had estimated that the Part B premium would rise to $158.50. In addition, the deductible for Part B will be $233, up $30 from 2021. Finally, the deductible for Medicare Part A hospital coverage per benefit period will increase from the current $1,484 to $1,556 in 2022. This represents a $72 or approximately 9.5% increase.

What accounts for all these increases?

The short answer to this question is the increase in the numerous health care costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 limited the Medicare Part B monthly premium increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the increase last year was held to an artificially low level.

Dr. William Lane is the owner of William Lane Associates, a gerontological firm located in Homer, N.Y. He writes a monthly column on HIICAP related issues for the OFA. Dr. Lane does not sell insurance, work for any insurance company or recommend any insurance products.

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