Medicare can be a complex and confusing system. When we are covered under an employer’s health insurance – it covers all areas of healthcare – it’s a little different with Medicare.

For example, there are four parts to Medicare: A (inpatient hospitalization), B (doctor’s visits/outpatient), C (Advantage), and D (pharmacy). When you enroll in Medicare, it’s just for yourself – no more family plans, I’m afraid.

Did you know that you should apply for Medicare within the three months before your 65th birthday? You can do this by contacting your local Social Security office (Fergus Falls, Minnesota, 1-877-402-0827) or going to www.ssa.gov to apply online. Social Security is the “gatekeeper” of Medicare.

If for some reason, you don’t enroll in Medicare when you first turn 65, you risk the possibility of penalty. There are situations when you can enroll in Medicare later, such as if you or your spouse continue to work and are covered by an employer’s health plan.

Medicare Open Enrollment is quickly approaching – it runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2019 and plans would then take effect Jan. 1, 2020. What does that mean?

This is the one time of year that you can review your existing Medicare Part D plan (pharmacy) and change it, if need be. The private companies offering these prescription drug plans must apply to Medicare and be approved each year so, plans do change. If you are happy with your current coverage and don’t want to change it, you don’t need to do anything.

Richland County residents who would like assistance in reviewing your Medicare Part D can call us to set up an appointment at 701-642-7735. Wilkin County residents can call Wilkin County Public Health at 701-643-7122.

Other options for assistance in reviewing your Medicare Part D plan in our area:

• Some local pharmacies

• Richland County residents — Southeast Senior Services (701-642-3033)

• Any one — call Medicare directly (800-633-4227) or go to www.medicare.gov

• ND residents — State Health Insurance office (888-247-0560)

• MN residents – Senior Linkage Line (800-333-2433)

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding Medicare – I may not know all the answers but, I have wonderful resources at the State Insurance Office, Social Security and Medicare. Our phone number is 701-642-7735.

angie Conzemius is the Community Resource Coordinator at Richland County Health Department.

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