Overwhelmed by an avalanche of Medicare open enrollment options? You’re not alone.

I just got a prescription for a chronic condition and was shocked it cost $337.65. I thought: What was the point of having a prescription plan? And how can people afford this?

SHARE Overwhelmed by an avalanche of Medicare open enrollment options? You’re not alone.
The 2020 Medicare handbook can be viewed online or downloaded at medicare.gov under the “publications” tab.

The 2020 Medicare handbook can be viewed online or downloaded at www.medicare.gov under the “publications” tab.


Medicare open enrollment is a ritual that must be frustrating a lot of seniors.

For months, everyone over 65 has been bombarded with flyers touting the best “Medicare Advantage” plans.

We’re pulling out what little hair we have left trying to decide whether to leap at the chance to switch to a plan with more benefits and a lower premium or stay with a brand that has strong name recognition and the endorsement of AARP, the largest advocacy organization for seniors.

The task would have been simpler if we only had to choose from three levels — platinum, gold and silver — instead of sifting through hundreds of plans.

After wading through piles of brochures and mailings about these plans, I’m still overwhelmed by the choices.

Open enrollment is as frenetic as a hotly contested election campaign.

While the rest of you are trying to read between the blurred lines that are coming out of the impeachment investigation, seniors are trying to get at the truth about our co-pays, out-of-pocket medical expenses and drug costs.

And while Congress is trying to get to the bottom of the infamous phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, their most loyal constituents are worrying about the possibility of an end-of-life trek that could leave their heirs penniless.

Unfortunately, we spend so much time dealing with Trump’s foolishness, the real-life issues that are affecting many of us can fall by the wayside.

I’m taking this enrollment thing seriously.

After all, it would be a tragedy to make it to three score and 10 without going broke only to suffer the horror of being unable to pay for a much-needed prescription.

It happens. A week ago, my doctor gave me a new prescription to treat a chronic pulmonary condition.

I was shocked when the cashier told me the cost: $337.65.

I had two thoughts: What was the point of me buying a prescription plan? And how are aging, working-class people going to make it?

It seems like everything one needs to stave off the ravages of time costs an arm and a leg — including all of those organic fruits and vegetables.

Now, I understand something my mother once said when I asked why she didn’t use a recipe book when she was cooking.

“Because it costs too much to buy all that stuff,” she replied.

I’m afraid that’s how some seniors feel about their health.

I am hoping the medical industry has finally gotten it right with the new “advantage” plans that include vision, dental, fitness classes and hearing aids.

It is shocking that “nearly two-thirds of Medicare enrollees have no dental insurance,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2020, most advantage plans will offer some dental benefits, the New York Times recently reported.

Still, you really do need to read the fine print. For instance, even though a plan might include dental benefits, the coverage might be nothing more than a routine exam.

There are still informational meetings being held throughout the Chicago area. But be aware that licensed agents who are working for specific plan providers are typically the ones hosting these.

I don’t blame you if you’re sick of sitting through commercials featuring gray-haired folk fretting over medical plans and of being reminded that a choice has to be made by Dec. 7.

If you’re blessed with a long life, you’ll come down this road, too.

I’m concerned that our Medicare system is becoming too complicated for the population it is meant to serve.

So if you know a senior citizen who’s wrestling with Medicare open enrollment, don’t be shy about offering a helping hand.

I’m sure they would appreciate it.

And if you’re still fretting over Medicare open enrollment, go to www.medicare.gov, where you can compare plans.

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