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Enrolling in Medicare for the first time can be quite daunting, especially if an enrollee doesn’t have any knowledge of the system and its enrollment process. First-time applicants have three months before their 65th birthday and three months after to enroll.

According to Romina Alesci, Medicare sales and service representative at Medical Mutual in Cleveland, and William Haas, president of Haas, Haas & Associates in Chardon, enrollees should begin by knowing their options.

“It is a good idea to do a checkup on your coverage even if you are happy with your current choices,” Haas said. “Especially when it comes to prescription drug plans. Drug plans often revise their lists of covered drugs.”

Haas said individuals should do their research.

“Before choosing a Medicare plan, we highly recommend that you meet with a qualified professional who understands the benefits and products,” he said. “There is a right plan for everyone but with the myriad of choices it can be very confusing without that expertise.”

Alesci said she’d “absolutely recommend” individuals connect with professionals when navigating Medicare for the first time, especially those well-versed in the type of coverage they’re interested in.

“You’re going to find people just licensed in a Medicare supplement – but you want someone licensed in both,” she said. “Individuals have the right to know about all their options and make the choice themselves. The reason you need an expert is because looking at a plan on paper will not show you the depth and detail of each program listed in these plans. They could assume something about the plan that isn’t true and be disappointed.”

She added all Medicare professionals have “different styles” in how they work, research and suggest coverage to clients.

“There are plenty of us to go around, and there are different strokes for different folks,” she said, adding the choice depends on the coverage they are looking into.

When choosing a professional to consult during the enrollment period, Alesci suggested weighing one’s options.

“If they meet with someone and don’t feel good about it, that’s fine, talk to someone else and work with different companies,” she said. “Ask your friends and hear about their experiences. That is very important because people rely on their friendships. Also, what is important is they need to hear the details of that program.”

Alesci added enrollees can get ratings for each plan and program from their adviser, as it’s a general rule of thumb to go with highly-rated plans.

Once they’ve chosen the professional they want to enroll through, Haas said enrollees should take a look at their lifestyle to determine what plan they need.

“It depends on their lifestyle,” Haas explained. “For example, if they travel extensively out of Ohio and spend winters in Florida, they need to make sure whatever plan they choose offers them out-of-state benefits.”

Haas added individuals should focus on the benefits included in a plan. By paying attention to the benefits, they can choose a plan that meets their needs exactly.

“The advantage plans offer a lot of perks and benefits such as hearing aids or dental coverage,” he said.

Alesci said first-time enrollment seems like it could be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.

“You decided on your retirement date, so meet with your adviser early as they can take the pressure off,” she said. “It will get easier as time goes on. If you make a mistake, every year you will have the option to change it.”

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