Take Advantage of Medicare Open Enrollment

By David Sayen Medicare is stronger than ever, with more benefits, better choices, and lower costs to beneficiaries. Expanded Medicare benefits under the health care law (the Affordable Care Act) continue to be available – including certain free preventive benefits, cancer screenings, and an annual wellness visit. Whether you choose Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, take advantage of Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period to review cost, coverage, or both for next year. Open Enrollment began this week and runs through Dec. 7. Among Medicare’s features: The plan includes more benefits. Certain preventive benefits – including cancer screenings – are available at no cost to patients when furnished by qualified and participating health professionals. The annual wellness visit allows people to sit down and discuss with their doctor their healthcare needs and the best ways to stay healthy. Medicare also includes more choices. Medicare will notify beneficiaries about plan performance and use its online Plan Finder to encourage enrollment in quality plans. Costs are lower. Average premiums for 2013 for prescription drug coverage and Medicare health plans will remain stable. People who are in the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit will enjoy 53-percent discounts on covered brand-name drugs and 21-percent discounts on generic drugs. Your health needs change from year to year and your health plan may change benefits and costs. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your Medicare choices regularly. Open Enrollment is the one time of year when all people with Medicare can see what new benefits Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage. Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare your current coverage with all of the options that are available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to make a change. Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Get one-on-one help from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Visit www.medicare.gov/contacts or call 1-800-MEDICARE to get the phone number for your state. If you have limited income and resources, you may be able to get Extra Help paying your prescription drug coverage costs. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020 or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778. If you qualify, you might pay no more than $2.60 for each generic drug and $6.50 for each brand-name drug. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that more than 2 million people with Medicare may be eligible for the subsidy, but are not currently enrolled to take advantage of these savings. David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada.
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