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The Times Medicare Guide: Helping you plan for 2021

It’s time for people 65 and over to review their coverage. The open enrollment period is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

The coronavirus pandemic has raised the stakes, making decisions about health care more important than at any time in the last century. For more than 62 million Americans age 65 and over, the Medicare program is central to that process. About 4.6 million of them are Floridians.

Every year at this time, during Medicare’s open enrollment period, the Tampa Bay Times sets out to help readers better understand the program and use it to the fullest. Our guide explains how Medicare works, helps beneficiaries compare coverage options available in the Tampa Bay area and points the way toward help.

Click on the links below to get started:

HOW MEDICARE WORKS: What you need to know about open enrollment, the basics of Medicare and how to find the best coverage for 2021. Plus information on how the pandemic has changed the way we enroll.

COMPARING PLANS: Our chart helps you shop for 2021 coverage under the increasingly popular Medicare Advantage program. Dozens of these plans are available, with drug coverage, for beneficiaries 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.

FINDING HELP: A state program called Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, is working around the pandemic by engaging with people online and by phone. Hundreds of volunteers around the state are standing ready to help Floridians make the best use of the Medicare benefits available to them.

THE PLAN FINDER is another good way to compare coverage. It’s an online tool provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Related stories:

PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg-based fact-checking organization, separates Medicare fact from fiction

Are Medicare Advantage plans worth the risk?

Fad or future? Telehealth expansion eyed beyond pandemic

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