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The Times Medicare Guide: A road map for 2020

As the open enrollment period begins, it’s time to review your coverage.
The Tampa Bay Times' annual Medicare Guide explains how the program is set up, helps you compare options available in the Tampa Bay area, and points the way toward help, including free, one-on-one assistance. This illustration will grace the cover of LifeTimes on Oct. 23, when the guide will be published in print. [RON BORRESEN | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 15
Updated Oct. 15

Every year at this time, the Tampa Bay Times sets out to help readers better understand Medicare, the national program primarily designed to provide health insurance for Americans 65 and over.

The annual enrollment period, running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is an important time both for retirees just entering the program and those who have been enrolled for years. Medicare is massive and complex, but immensely beneficial for the 61 million people who rely on it for health care. So don’t be afraid to seek help; it’s out there in many forms.

The Times guide explains how Medicare is set up, helps you compare options available in the Tampa Bay area, and points the way toward help, including free, one-on-one assistance.

Click on the links below to get started:

A MEDICARE TUTORIAL: What you need to know as open enrollment begins — from Medicare basics to tips on how to best use the program to your advantage.

SHOPPING AROUND: Our chart lets you compare the 50 Medicare Advantage plans with drug coverage available for 2020 in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

PRESCRIPTIONS: Another chart compares standalone plans available in Florida under Medicare’s Part D program for prescription drugs.

NEW THIS YEAR: One way to compare your options is through the online Plan Finder at medicare.gov. It has some added features this year.

HELP IS HERE: A state program called Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, holds information sessions around the area and has 500 volunteers across Florida to take questions — in person, online and over the phone.

PERSPECTIVE: Someone in her household is turning 65, so Medicare pitches are starting arrive in the mail and Medicare pitchmen are showing up at the door. Times columnist Michele Miller weighs in.

RELATED STORY: As Medicare open enrollment begins, many Florida seniors eye ‘Advantage’ plans

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Dr. Philip Adler treated generations of Tampa children, including Hannah Millman, who was 2 years old at the time of this visit. Times (1985)
    The Tampa pediatrician also played a prominent role in desegregating local hospital care.
  2. Reginald Ferguson, center, a resident of the Kenwood Inn in St. Petersburg, talks with Rachel Ilic, an environmental epidemiologist, left, and Fannie Vaughn, right, a nurse with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. The health team was encouraging residents to get vaccinated against hepatitis A, part of a larger effort to address an outbreak of the virus in Florida. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The effort started in Pinellas, where health department “foot teams” are knocking on doors in neighborhoods at higher risk for the virus.
  3. A nurse at Tampa General Hospital holds a special stethoscope used for critical patients in the Jennifer Leigh Muma Neonatal Intensive Care Unit there. The hospital received a C grade from Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit which ranks hospitals nationally for patient safety. Times (2018)
    Leapfrog, an independent nonprofit, rated hospitals based on hand washing, infection rates, patient falls and other factors.
  4. Most of the time (55%), older spouses are caregiving alone as husbands or wives come to the end of their lives, without help from their children, other family members or friends or paid home health aides, according to research published earlier this year. [Times (2011)]
    Compared to adult children who care for their parents, spouses perform more tasks and assume greater physical and financial burdens when they become caregivers.
  5. “Coming out,” as providers call it, is not easy. But when people ask her specialty, Dr. Jewel Brown of Tampa owns it. She wants to be an abortion provider. Becoming one, she has found, takes determination at every step of the way. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Florida providers seek training and work extra hours to give patients anything they might need.
  6. Nurses at Tampa General Hospital came up with the idea to turn sterile mats used in the operating room into sleeping bags for the homeless. From left are: Lucy Gurka, Claudia Hibbert, Karley Wright and Nicole Hubbard. Courtesy of Tampa General Hospital
    The paper-thin material is waterproof and holds heat, “like an envelope that you can slide into.”
  7. Tampa City Hall. TIM NICKENS  |  Times
    City attorneys intend to appeal a U.S. district judge’s ruling last month overturning Tampa’s ban of a treatment that has been deemed harmful and ineffective.
  8. Messiah Davis, 19 months old, choked on hamburger meat while at a South Tampa child care center and lost oxygen to his brain. He died four days later. His mother has filed a wrongful death suit. Facebook
    Felicia Davis has filed a wrongful death suit, saying Kiddie Kollege failed to save her child and questioning why he was fed hamburger.
  9. At Surterra’s facility on the outskirts of Tallahassee, Cultivation Manager Wes Conner displays the fully grown flower of one of the company’s marijuana plants in 2016. (Associated Press | 2016)
    The state business has 277,000 patients and counting.
  10. Ms. Betty Brown, 72, arrives home from Walmart with her groceries. Brown drives over two miles to get to the Walmart, the only shopping center available since two supermarkets closed in midtown, a predominately African American neighborhood. Ms. Brown says she is fortunate to have a car. Many other people she knows in the neighborhood who are elderly or disabled, rely on public transportation, making it hard to grocery shop. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    A grocery co-op conceived in 2017 is off to a slow start as it strives to build membership.
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