WESTFIELD – Now that the Medicare open enrollment period is underway, city seniors are encouraged to review their drug coverage and if questions arise, an invaluable resource to reach out to is Karen Noblit at the Westfield Council on Aging.
“I have already had many of my returning clients call inquiring about this year’s open enrollment process,” said Noblit, who serves as the city’s senior benefits coordinator. Her office is located at the Westfield Senior Center on Noble Street.
Since the state mandates that face-to-face meetings cannot take place this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, Noblit is following a hybrid model.
“The hybrid model is to help as many people as I can through alternative means,” said Noblit, noting she is communicating with clients through mail, email and phone conversations. “I will be doing all the work comparing their current plans just as if they were in my office, however, I will now be sending or emailing them the results instead.”
A drop box has also been installed near the Westfield Senior Center front door so that supporting documentation can be delivered to Noblit safely and confidentially.
Noblit said during open enrollment, she is only taking on those clients who are already on Medicare and are looking to check their current coverage and “possibly make” changes to that coverage.
“Those who are happy with their current coverage and have read their Annual Notice of Change and accept those changes, they do nothing and their plan will automatically renew itself for Jan. 1,” said Noblit.
For new clients, Noblit will mail out a form which has all the information on it that she will need to do the plan comparisons.
“I will mail all results out so each person can see what I am seeing,” she said. “If at that time we need to make an appointment to discuss further, then we will make an appointment at that time.”
Noblit said that currently she is not setting up time slots with clients.
“Once the client receives the results and feel they need to discuss further, then we will set up an appointment,” she said.
For seniors who are computer savvy, Noblit encourages individuals to review Medicare YouTube videos which can be helpful and informative. Seniors can see the links by visiting www.cityofwestfield.org, and under “Departments,” click on “Council on Aging” under Senior Services and then click “SHINE Program.” Scroll to the bottom for “SHINE Massachusetts YouTube Channel” which are videos provided by the State Health Insurance Program.
“These videos cover all aspects of Medicare which is outlined in the newsletter under ‘Medicare and You’ educational videos,” said Noblit.
The last day for appointments with Noblit is Dec. 7 since that is the last day of open enrollment and to change plans.
“Since we have to rely on the U.S. Mail, anyone needing assistance should contact me soon,” she said, adding that those who wait until the last minute will be referred to a SHINE counselor at the regional SHINE office which is LifePath, 1-800-732-4636 or Medicare, 1-800-633-4227.
“Some seniors can do their own comparisons through medicare.gov, especially if they have a My Medicare account, and those that do have the ability are encouraged to do their own comparisons,” said Noblit. “For those who do not have a computer or know how to use one, that’s where a SHINE counselor comes in. Sometimes, it is just for the reassurance that they are doing the right thing, choosing the right coverage.”
Noblit noted that although nothing is exact, especially with insurance, SHINE counselors do the best they can to give the correct information from Medicare and all the other insurance companies.
“We gather and pass that information on to the client so it is unbiased, and they now have all the resources they need to make an informed decision regarding their health insurance choices,” she added.
For more information on open enrollment and to reach Noblit, call (413) 562-6435.