There are nearly 44 million unpaid caregivers to loved ones in the United States, and 72 percent are taking care of a family member age 50 or older. If you are a caregiver to someone who is Medicare eligible, here’s a guide to assessing plan options and advocating on their behalf, especially during the Annual Election Period that runs from Oct. 15-Dec. 7 every year.

You must have written permission to use or give out information on behalf of your loved one who is on Medicare. This includes filling out the “1-800-MEDICARE Authorization to Disclose Personal Health Information” form, which you can find on Also, ensure that your loved one’s insurance company has the required permission/authorization on file for you to be able to get information on their behalf.

During the Annual Election Period, people on Medicare can make changes, such as enrolling in a new Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan. If your parent or loved one is considering a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, they have until Dec. 7, 2018, to make a decision for the 2019 plan year.

In reviewing plan options with your loved one, you’ll need to know:
Q. What is the individual’s monthly budget for health insurance premiums?
Q. What are his or her monthly prescription drugs and how are they covered?
Q. What doctors can he or she visit?
Q. Are there copayments or other costs to consider?
Q. How much is the plan’s calendar year deductible?

Everyone’s health needs are unique, so there may be other questions you need to ask when considering coverage options. A physician or a licensed representative can help you compile a list specific to your loved one’s needs.

Many Medicare Advantage Plans provide coverage in addition to traditional Medicare benefits. This includes benefits for things like routine vision and hearing exams, hearing aids, dental benefits and gym memberships. Educate yourself on any additional benefits available as part of the plan.

The plan finder on can provide help with prescription drug coverage questions. You can enter the names of current prescriptions to find out which plans would cover the cost of the drugs your loved one is taking.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a list of resources available to caregiver and caregiver partners.

There are also caregiver services from other local and national agencies. These include The National Alliance for Caregiving and the local Area Agency on Aging. To find the agency near you, visit

As always, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska is here to help review Medicare options with you and your loved one. For more information on plans available in your area or to contact a local agent, visit