The first time David Van Wey, 80, of Newport sought help with enrolling in Medicare was when he was 64 and applied for the first time.
"It was very confusing because I didn't know what was going on," he said.
Plenty of people find themselves confused when it comes time to enroll for Medicare each year. Medicare open enrollment runs through Dec. 7.
Fortunately there are several options for getting help with enrollment questions, applications and changes.
Van Wey has a better understanding of Medicare's annual open enrollment period nowadays but admitted "I won't know the ins and outs of how to do the paperwork."
When that happens, Van Wey doesn't hesitate to turn to the certified counselors at the local Area Agency on Aging.
The open enrollment period for Medicare runs through Dec. 7.
O'Neill Center: 373-3914.
Area Agency on Aging: 1-800-331-2644, ask for Screening Department.
Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program: 1-800-686-1578, www.insurance.ohio.gov.
Medicare online: www.medicare.gov.
"When I'm in doubt I always go to them, and they can straighten me out real quick," he said.
Gerri VanNoy, a certified OSHIIP (Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program) counselor for the Area Agency on Aging, works at straightening out many seniors with questions about Medicare open enrollment.
Most questions are "What do all of the letters stand for (Medicare A, B, C, D)?" and "What do they cover?" she said.
"People really need to pay attention to their mail right now because they'll be getting their annual "Notice of Change," said Robin Collins, social services coordinator for the O'Neill Center in Marietta. "They can't be complacent and assume that everything is going to be same as it was this year."
The biggest concern for O'Neill Center clients seeking help enrolling for Medicare for 2013 is "How much is this going to cost me next year?" Collins said.
"They want to get the biggest bang for their buck," she added.
However it is also important for Medicare recipients to know about the cost of their medicine under different plans, said Collins.
"What really drives the plan that is best for you is the medicines you're on. It's not uncommon for a husband and wife to have different plans due to what drugs they're taking," she said.
At the Area Agency on Aging, trained counselors are available to help seniors review, compare and enroll in plans for 2013.
Counselors begin an appointment there by discussing the different types of Medicare and what each one covers, in addition to the differences between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans.
To have a counselor do a Medicare checkup and look into new Medicare D plans, bring a Medicare card and a current list of medicines that includes dosages and frequency.
Area Agency on Aging counselors can also help people apply for Medicare Extra Help, VanNoy said.
"This is a federal program that helps with Medicare Part B expenses and helps cover the cost of some of their medications," she added. There are income and asset qualifications for the Medicare Extra Help program.
Appointments are required for Area Agency on Aging's service and can take from one and one half to two hours. To make an appointment, call 1-800-331-2644 and ask for the Screening Department.
The O'Neill Center also requires appointments, which can be made by calling 373-3914. An appointment at O'Neill Center typically takes 30 to 45 minutes, Collins said.
Those calling should have their Medicare card handy, along with a complete list of their medications, doses and how often they take them.
Collins or another employee will run a comparison chart and let the individual know if their current plan is not projected to be within the three cheapest for them for the coming year.
Collins asked callers to be patient and allow three business days for a return call.
"We are inundated with phone calls," said Collins. "Don't wait until the last minute. I'm already booked into the second week in November with appointments."