SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s nearly time for the annual open enrollment period for many health plans. This fall, senior South Dakotans who qualify for Medicare will now have a new option to choose from for a Medicare advantage plan thanks to a new local partnership.

“Medicare advantage has been around for a long time,” Jen Mentele, the President & VP of Sales for Wellmark of South Dakota said. “Nationally about 45 percent of seniors actually elect a Medicare advantage plan.”

But in South Dakota, Wellmark says only 11 percent of the eligible population have elected to use Medicare advantage.

“Medicare advantage is really an all-in-one plan, you have Medicare part A, Medicare part B, and a lot of people call this Medicare part C because it’s everything,” Mentele said. 

“It might include dental, or prescription coverage, and vision may be covered as well,” Avera Health VP of Payer Strategies Stacey Lenker said. “A lot of times wellness benefits like a gym membership or that type of thing is offered as part of these Medicare advantage plans.”

While there are several plans available to choose from in the state, Wellmark and Avera Health have partnered to give South Dakotan a new local option.

“They’re both trusted names in the state of South Dakota in health care,” Lenker said. 

The local name recognition these organizations hope will help more South Dakotans look into joining Medicare advantage.

“They are low premium and a lot of folks can’t afford the options out there. Medicare advantage does offer that low premium option, but high value option,” Mentele said. 

The new Blue Medicare Advantage PPO program will provide even more of a benefit for those taking advantage of the Avera partnership.

“You have a better benefit if you were to use an Avera provider, but if you want to use a provider within the Wellmark Medicare advantage network, that would be an option.,” Lenker said. 

Open enrollment for the new plan begins October 15th and runs through December 7th; you can reach out to Wellmark South Dakota for more information this October.