Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Important information: November is the month to change health plans plus a wealth of Medicare Health Information from Julie Woodward

Healthcare has been on the minds of all UFTers recently with changes coming to working members and with the recent victories of retirees to hold onto their traditional medicare along with the DOE coverage of 20% with seniorcare.

This is a message from Julie Woodward, a former middle school chapter leader and one of the founders of ICE/UFT caucus. Working with Julie in ICE was a pleasure as she was often meticulous in her efforts. Julie retired years ago and became an expert on health care coverage for Medicare eligible seniors and has developed workshops to assist seniors in making health insurance decisions. With November being the opportunity to change plans she asked me to share this message with links to workshops she runs for seniors plus a wide range of information in general.

November’s the month when retirees can change their current city plan to another one (find the forms you need on the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) website here), but I don’t expect anyone is going to swap GHI Sr Care for one of the other ones, like Emblem’s HIP VIP HMO. Clearly most people are really afraid of those prior authorizations in the advantage plans, plus the provider networks. As it happens, I have to change plans this year myself, because of the cost of a single drug. 

But Medicare has other quirky things in it that are truly confounding, like what falls under Part, B, D, or what is not covered at all. There’s all kinds of rules for things. Here is a short list of examples. There are many more.
  • when you can get into a rehab facility, 
  • how skilled nursing works at home, 
  • acupuncture restrictions, 
  • opt-out vs. non-participating doctors, 
  • which parts of Medicare cover different aspects of chemo or diabetes, 
  • how hospice works, and so forth.
So I asked Norm if he’d tell people about Demystifying Medicare, a comprehensive and, believe it or not, upbeat workshop I’ve been doing for almost a decade many times a year all around Westchester. So much of what I cover is useful in understanding how our retiree City plans work. Of course ours are negotiated plans, but they're structurally so similar to what’s available in the open market, that sometimes its just good to take a deeper dive into what’s going on out there. And it keeps changing each year, as the industry gets more aggressive and shareholders in these companies want more of the pie. 

For many years the group I’m involved with has steeped themselves in this stuff and make it our responsibility to help people navigate the system. We were originally trained by the by the Medicare Rights Center in NYC and are now in partnership with the Westchester Library System and the county’s Office of Sr Programs and Services. We’re all HIICAP-certified, unaffiliated counselors, and our presentations and individual counseling (in-person or through a hotline) are all free. 

Demystifying Medicare has also been online since the first year of COVID, when the live events were cancelled.  People can listen to segments at home while they follow a .pdf with pictures of all the old-school displays I use in the in-person programs. (No PowerPoints, I hate those.) There are also links for handouts and a list of all scheduled in-person workshops.  

Contact information for Julie or free individual counseling certified by NY State:


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