What you need to know before your next visit to SHIIP
In North Carolina, one of your best resources to learn about the basic workings of Medicare is SHIIP, or the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program, a non-biased source run by the NC Department of Insurance. But completing your coverage through them may cause some unintended (and unexpected) headaches down the road. Here’s our do’s and don’ts guide for your next conversation or visit with SHIIP.
So, who should visit SHIIP?
If, after researching online, you still feel unsure about how Original Medicare works or how to complete your coverage, SHIIP may be the place to go for your in-person consultation with your local SHIIP “Counselor.” Most Counselors are unlicensed volunteers who have enough training to answer basic questions about Medicare in North Carolina. But, make sure you prepare ahead with all your questions because SHIIP is by-appointment only.
Can I sign up for Medicare with them?
No and yes, but you shouldn’t. Here’s why:
For Parts A and B, no. The only way to enroll in Medicare A and B is either online or at your local Social Security office, and SHIIP directs you to do so.
For Medicare Supplements, they cannot sign you up, but they do offer estimates. Unfortunately, the estimates they give you are not up-to-date and may not be the best you can get. So, although SHIIP gives you an estimate to an appealing plan and may even provide you with a direct phone number of the supplying insurance company, you might miss out on some of the finer points and discounts that an independent licensed agent can help you find, like if you are eligible for a spousal discount. So, you might leave the SHIIP office paying more for your coverage than necessary.
For Prescription Drug Plans, they can assist you with signing up, and their prices are accurate. But we strongly recommend that you don’t enroll with SHIIP because you will need an agent to maintain and adjust your coverage over the coming years. If you enroll in a drug plan without an agent, he or she cannot step in on your behalf with the insurer if/when you later find a problem or need to make any changes, like to cover a new prescription or to switch pharmacies.
For Medicare Advantage Plans, SHIIP can also help you enroll, but, again, given how many moving parts there are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, we wouldn’t advise that you enroll with them. Between the annual changes, the varying prescription coverage, the networks, and the co-pays versus the deductibles, it’s very difficult to find a tailored fit without the expertise of an independent agent and the options he or she can offer.
If you’ve already signed up for a Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan through SHIIP, never fear, you can still re-enroll with an agent at the annual open enrollment time (between Oct 15 and Dec 7th).
SHIIP is a valuable resource for learning about all aspects of Medicare, but when it comes to enrolling, you are best served by finding an independent agency like Griffin Insurance Solutions who can give you unbiased guidance to make the best decision for your Medicare coverage needs. We use quote engines to find the best rates and offer plans from over 15 different insurers to help seniors find the best plans tailored for them every day, and we can do the same for you. Contact us today for an in-person appointment by email or phone at 919-704-6147 or 800-774-1434.