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Help available for seniors considering changes during Medicare's open enrollment period

Credit: KFF
Credit: KFF

Starting Saturday, seniors have a few weeks to make changes to their Medicare plans, and for those decisions, there's unbiased help from Florida's SHINE program.

Senior Resource Alliance administers the program in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Brevard counties. Alliance President and CEO Karla Radka said there's "an army of SHINE volunteers" ready to assist with Medicare questions.

Radka says callers to their helpline will find well-trained volunteers, including some who speak Spanish.

"What they can expect is service with care, with compassion and with a lot of knowledge," she said.

The annual open enrollment runs through Dec. 7.

In those Central Florida counties, the number to call 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday  is 407-514-1800. Anyone can find help through the state office at floridashine.org.

Kaiser Family Foundation research shows that the percentage of eligible Medicare beneficiaries choosing a Medicare Advantage plan has increased from 19% in 2007 to 48% this year. In Central Florida counties, the percentage is even higher, including 72% in Osceola county and 63% in Orange.

A KFF review evaluating 62 other studies found that seniors with Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare "reported similar rates of satisfaction with their care and overall measures of care coordination."

As for traditional Medicare, the review found that fewer had cost-related problems, especially those with supplemental coverage. The traditional enrollees without that additional coverage had the most affordability problems.

Those on traditional Medicare also tended to receive care "in the highest-rated hospitals for cancer care or in the highest-quality skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies."

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.