medicare open enrollment is here

Craig DeSilva
November 16, 2023

It’s that time of the year again. Open enrollment for Medicare plans started Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7.

You’re probably seeing a wave of Medicare plan ads on TV and the radio and filling your mailbox. With all these messages, you may be confused about your Medicare plan options. But staying informed may help save time and money on health care for yourself or a loved one. Here are some things you need to know to help guide you.

The ABC and Ds of Medicare
First, learn about Medicare. Original Medicare is health insurance that you get from the federal government when you turn 65.

Original Medicare helps pay for hospital (Part A) and medical (Part B) expenses. But those benefits are limited and don’t include prescription drugs (Part D).

If you’d like more benefits, including Part D, you’ll need to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), which is provided by a private health insurer such as HMSA. A Medicare Advantage plan helps pay for extra benefits. For example, HMSA Medicare Advantage plans have benefits for vision, dental, prescription drugs, fitness, and more that Original Medicare doesn’t include.

What’s the best Medicare Advantage plan for me?
When choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, consider your health care needs and budget.

If you’re relatively healthy and don’t go to the doctor often, you can get a plan that has no or lower monthly premiums. However, you’ll pay more in other out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments and coinsurance, for medical services.

If you have a lot of health conditions, anticipate multiple trips to the doctor or hospital, and take a lot of prescription drugs, you could choose a plan that gives you more financial protection with lower out-of-pocket costs. But you’ll likely pay a higher monthly premium.

Making sense of it all
Sound confusing? That’s why it’s important to start planning now to consider your options and make the right decision. You don’t want to wait until the last minute and make a hurried decision.

Do your homework and compare plans so you understand their benefits. Perhaps you want a plan that lets you keep your doctor. Maybe a plan with a free gym membership is important to you. Or if you plan to travel, you may want a health plan that covers you abroad.

Also, find out the plans’ costs such as monthly premium, copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.

Help is here
To help eliminate confusion, HMSA has resources to help you plan for your health care in retirement. Visit to see your health plan options, costs, and benefits.

If you’d like one-on-one help, enroll in a free Medicare workshop. These workshops are held in various locations statewide. Medicare health plan experts can tell you all you need to know about Medicare and answer your questions. For your convenience, HMSA also has online workshops.  

You can also talk to a customer relations representative on the phone or a health plan adviser at an HMSA Center. Go to to get phone numbers and locations and hours of operations.

Window of opportunity
It’s important to review your health plan options every year since your health care needs may have changed. If you need to make any changes, now’s the time to do it. The Medicare Annual Enrollment period is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Your plan will start Jan. 1, 2024.

If you’re satisfied with your Medicare Advantage plan and want to keep it, there’s nothing you need to do. Your plan will automatically renew for the new year.

Financial help
Many retirees are concerned about being able to afford health insurance with rising inflation and the high cost of living. But there may be some relief. Find out if you qualify for Extra Help, a federal government program that helps pay for monthly plan premiums, annual deductibles, and copayments of Medicare-covered prescription drugs. Many people qualify and don’t even know it. Applying for the program is free, so you have nothing to lose.

If you’re eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, you could get a dual care plan at practically no cost.

Plan now, enjoy later
Your health care is one of the most important things in life. Make sure you have a health plan that will help keep you healthy and safe so you can enjoy the things you love.

Medicare resources
A Quick Look at Medicare
Medicare and You Handbook 2024 or call 1-800-MEDICARE
HMSA Health Care Planning Guide
Social Security Administration
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Hawaii SHIP (State Health Insurance Program)


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