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Choosing new Medicare plans can be complicated

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It’s the time of year when older Americans who depend on Medicare replacement health insurance plans decide whether to keep their current plans, or change to new ones. In Massachusetts, there could be more changes than usual, since one major insurer is shutting down its Medicare replacement plan at the end of the year.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care will no longer offer its StrideSM HMO to Medicare recipients. The insurer is encouraging them instead to enroll in the Tufts Preferred HMO. Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts merged to become the state’s second largest health insurer at the beginning of the year. Only about 9,500 Massachusetts residents are affected, according to the new company, Point32Health.

“We’ve carefully compared both companies’ provider networks and worked to expand the Tufts Medicare Preferred network to include all providers who are actively used for primary care and specialty services by Stride members today to allow for better continuity of care,” Point32Health said in a statement.

Anyone looking for a new Medicare plan has to consider some key questions. For most people, the primary question is whether their doctor accepts a new plan that they’re considering. The chief executive of a new Medicare replacement insurer for residents of Worcester County offered And Another Thing some additional advice.

“I venture to say when you get sick, you probably don't want to be mired in paperwork and learning how to navigate a very complicated system. So you really need that guide and then making sure that doctor’s in your network,” said Mary Hsieh, CEO of Mass Advantage.

Correction: During this episode, the second-largest health insurer in Massachusetts was incorrectly identified as Point Health 32. The company created by the merger of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is actually called Point32Health. In this same episode, the Tufts Health Medicare replacement plan was incorrectly referred to as the Tufts Preferred Stride program. It is actually Tufts Preferred HMO. Harvard Pilgrim is eliminating its replacement plan called Stride (HMO) Medicare Advantage.