The Ellis County Extension Office will offer an educational program on Medicare Basics at noon Sept. 25 in the Extension meeting room, 601 Main.

The free program will cover Medicare eligibility, how and when to apply, what is covered by the various parts, and how to fill the gaps. Tips for choosing a Part D drug plan during the fall open season and programs available to assist low-income individuals also will be discussed.

Anyone interested in learning more about Medicare would benefit from the program, particularly those who are nearing age 65 or those who help aging parents with insurance and financial matters.

The program will be presented by Jamie Rathbun, Midway District Extension FCS agent and a trained Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas counselor.

Medicare is the federal government program that provides health insurance to those who are age 65 or older, and some disabled people younger than 65, no matter their income.

Medicare has different parts that cover inpatient services, outpatient services and prescription drugs at the pharmacy. Unless someone makes another choice for how to get benefits when they become eligible for Medicare, they will have Original Medicare, the traditional fee-for-service program offered directly through the federal government. In Original Medicare, you are covered to go to just about any doctor or hospital in the country.

People also can choose to get their Medicare benefits instead through a Medicare Advantage plan (such as an HMO or PPO). These plans, which are also called Medicare private health plans, must offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare but can have different rules, costs and coverage restrictions.

Medicare is different from Medicaid, which is a state and federal program offering health care coverage to people with low incomes.

Each year, insurance companies that provide Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage have the right to change their monthly premium price, the drugs they choose to cover and the co-pay or co-insurance amounts you pay for those drugs at the pharmacy. It is always a good idea to check each year to see if your plan might be changing. Learn more about how to do a plan comparison and make changes during Part D open enrollment Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

Everyone has a choice about how to get Medicare health benefits. Whether making decisions for yourself, or helping parents, grandparents, relatives or friends make health care decisions, it is important to understand Medicare options and to choose Medicare coverage carefully. The decisions you make about Medicare benefits can affect costs and quality of care.

To learn more, plan to attend the free program on Medicare Basics at the Ellis County Extension meeting room. Enter the rear door from the north parking lot. Please pre-register by calling the Extension office, (785) 628-9430, to ensure adequate materials.

Linda K. Beech is Ellis County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.