MemorialCare, a local health system, offers a helping hand with Medicare questions in real-time

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Your Medicare questions can be answered with a simple phone call.
(Photo courtesy of MemorialCare / Getty Images)

If you’re signing up for Medicare for the first time or wanting to switch plans during the open enrollment period, navigating all the requirements and options can prove overwhelming.

Most of us will have been on an employer-provided health insurance plan for decades by the time we reach retirement age, with only a few options to choose from and decisions to make. But with Medicare, you’re on your own.

“You have to coordinate with both the insurance company and the medical group.” said Jose Juarez, Medicare Education Specialist at MemorialCare. “A lot of people do not know the difference between HMO and PPO insurance plans, both of which have a difference on their monthly premiums.”

To aid patients, MemorialCare has invested heavily in assisting both Medicare newcomers and retirees who are considering changing plans, maybe for the first time in years. A leading nonprofit health system in Orange and Los Angeles counties, MemorialCare includes four hospitals and two medical groups plus convenient outpatient centers throughout the region.

“Seniors that are currently with MemorialCare, or anybody who’s going to be turning 65, our Medicare Education team helps them learn about the different options they have within Medicare.” said Cheryl Hirtler, Medicare Education Specialist at MemorialCare. “The basics of Medicare; when to apply; how to apply; and any other questions they may have.”

Hirtler and Juarez are the Medicare Education Specialists at MemorialCare. They can be called, texted, or emailed by existing and prospective patients. There’s no 1-800 number or automated menu connecting to a call center - instead, local experts will personally walk you through the Medicare process - sometimes literally. “We like to be very hands-on. We like to meet with patients in person or via Zoom and walk them through the whole process,” said Hirtler.

Additionally, MemorialCare has created an uncommonly user-friendly website to smooth the transition to Medicare, or between plans ( It features a fun interactive map of all its main facilities across L.A. and Orange Counties, plus details of its medical groups, hospitals, and ambulatory care. There’s also Medicare information laid out in everyday language, and a calendar of upcoming seminars and in-person meetings with doctors to discuss Medicare and Social Security, compare plans, and to strategize for long-term good health.

Timing is also crucial when enrolling in or changing a Medicare Advantage plan. Waiting to enroll could end up costing a patient more for coverage while also limiting their choices. For most people, the initial enrollment period starts three months before the month of their 65th birthday and ends three months after that. Open enrollment to add or change plans for Medicare is from October 15 to December 7.

“If your employer does not offer health insurance and you did not apply for Medicare during the window after you turned 65, you will be penalized 10% every year you are on Medicare after your 65th birthday.” said Juarez. “That penalty never goes away.”

To prevent that and any other potential missed deadlines, MemorialCare’s website includes an invaluable “Know When to Sign Up” section alongside clear descriptions of Medicare itself and its four parts ( Hirtler, Juarez and MemorialCare are very aware that continuity in medical relationships is reassuring and important to patients, and especially to seniors who may have been seeing the same providers for years or even decades.

To learn more about Medicare or speak with our Medicare Education Specialists visit: or call:

Jose Juarez: 866-407-0695

Cheryl Hirtler: 866-407-2021

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