Hand of senior male candidate holding pen and filling in application form together with woman at table. Senior partner signing contractBy Eric Heinz

Understanding the landscape of medical insurance, or health care, can be a daunting task. To get a better grasp on what you need for coverage, it’s best to speak to a licensed insurance professional, but in the meantime, here are some important tips for signing up for health care coverage.

Open enrollment for Medicare beneficiaries will begin Oct. 1 and end Dec. 7. For non-Medicare beneficiaries and those under age 65, open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31 in California.

For Covered California, the state’s exchange for insurance, you can apply online independently or use the services of a licensed Covered California certified agent by selecting “free local help to enroll” on the website’s home page.

If you don’t qualify for advanced premium tax credits (subsidies to help offset the cost of your monthly insurance premium), then you should consult an insurance broker who can help you find the right insurance plan that meets your needs and contracts in-network with the doctors you and your family go to.

Stephanie Frisch, owner of Stephanie Frisch Insurance 101 Services, said Medicare is provided by the federal government, and during the open enrollment period, people can change and update their private insurance options.

For example, someone could switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare and add a prescription drug plan and a Medicare Supplement plan, or vice versa.

“Advantage plans cover everything that Medicare Part A and B cover but add additional benefits and cover more than what Original Medicare covers,” Frisch said. “The majority of them also include prescription drug coverage and offer a $0 premium in Orange County.”

Frisch said it is also helpful for people to seek assistance with understanding the latest news in health care coverage.

For example, “One of the major insurance companies, Anthem Blue Cross, is pulling out of Covered California and the Individual/Family plan market in Orange County as well as most of California,” Frisch said. “Everyone who’s on an Anthem plan, if they don’t replace it, they’ll be uninsured or switched to another company with the lowest premium for the same type of plan if they’re currently getting their insurance through Covered California. This means those people most likely would lose their current doctors.”

More information about Medicare can be found at www.medicare.gov.

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