Medicare open enrollment closes Dec. 7

Vicki Harty, independent insurance agent, leads a Medicare workshop Nov. 17 at the Welcome Center.

Medicare enrollment is open, and several services are available locally to help navigate confusion.

With counseling offered at the Loudon County Senior Center and educational workshops at the Welcome Center in Tellico Village, residents can find the tools they need to make an educated decision.

Veronica Scott, senior center activities coordinator, said the counseling the center offers is a state program. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program sends an experienced counselor.

“We have what they call a SHIP counselor, and that’s all related to insurance and Medicare,” Scott said. “He comes in and gives you an unbiased opinion. He’s not a salesman, he’s just here to let you know what’s available to you. He’s not trying to sell you anything, and he’s been doing it for many, many years.”

The free counseling sessions are by appointment only on Mondays and Wednesdays. Scott said those interested simply need to call the center to make an appointment. When coming in, a person should bring a list of medication, as well as their Medicare card if they have one.

The center’s counseling consists of individual appointments, though couples can come together.

In contrast, Tellico Village offers open workshops, where multiple individuals and couples can join in at the same time. These meetings, led by an independent insurance representative, serve as a first step in figuring out needs.

Vicki Harty, a local representative running sessions, said it helps people get a better idea of the situation before taking the next step.

“A lot of times, people have a ton of questions and they don’t know where to go to find answers, so I come in and do general overview of Medicare and how it works, so they know maybe just what kind of plan they want to look at,” Harty said. “And then if they decide on something, then we can go from there.”

Workshops allow attendees to not only ask questions but bounce ideas off those attending, as someone might bring up a point that had not occurred to another.

Harty said individual home appointments are available as well.

The workshop is only a first step. After conducting larger sessions, Harty said she will follow up individually with anyone who wants to get or make changes to a plan.

“I’d just call them and we’d make a home appointment,” she said. “And then I check their doctors and dentists and all their medication before I go so we can see which plan is going to be best for them.”

Workshops will be offered at the Welcome Center at 10 a.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. Dec. 3. Like the senior center’s counseling, there is no cost involved. Those wanting to sign up can call or text Harty at 865-719-4926.

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. The plan chosen becomes active Jan. 1 and lasts all of 2022.