Medicare's Annual Open Enrollment is from November 15 to December 31
Open season is here; time to hunt for your prescription drug plan
Hunting season is upon us; time to set your target for the Medicare prescription drug plan that’s best for you. Newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, and current beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D plan, should mark their calendars for November 15. The "open season" will run from November 15 to December 31.
The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.
While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the prescription drug program, some people with limited income and resources also are eligible for "extra help" to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The extra help is worth an average of $3,900 per year.
To figure out whether you are eligible for Extra Help, Social Security needs to know your income and the value of any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home you live in). To qualify, you must be receiving Medicare and also have:
- Income limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.
- Resources limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. Social Security does not count your house or car as resources.
You can complete an easy-to-use online application for the extra help at www.socialsecurity.gov. Click on "Medicare" on the top right side of the page. Then click on "Apply for help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs." To apply for the extra help by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the "Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs" (SSA-1020). Or go to your nearest Social Security office.
And if you would like more information about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program itself, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
So this open season, hunt for something that could put $3,900 in your pocket—bag the best Medicare prescription drug plan for you, and see if you qualify for the extra help through Social Security.
Have you reviewed your medical insurance?
Each year Medicare supplement plans change what they cost and what they cover. The next general open enrollment starts on November 15, 2010. During this time, people with Medicare can add, drop or change their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. They can also select a health plan for their 2011 coverage, which works in conjunction with their Medicare part A & B programs.
You'll find helpful Medicare tools and information at www.socialsecurity.gov and www.medicare.gov. Use these resources to compare the cost and benefits of Medicare health plans in your area. Get answers to your Medicare questions. Learn how to lower health care costs and stay healthy. And help reach those who are unaware, unsure, or unable to make their health plan decisions and apply for the "Extra Help."
You can also find help right in your hometown. A special group with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner provides free, unbiased health care coverage counseling to people of all ages. The volunteers at SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) have been helping people for over 30 years. They can help you understand your health care coverage options; find affordable healthcare coverage; and evaluate various health insurance plans. Give them a call at 1-800-562-6900.
Don't wait until the last minute to start looking at your health insurance. Start looking into it today and stay on top of this important issue.
Some facts for Washington State Medicare recipients
- 32 Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) are available
- 83% of people with Medicare have prescription drug coverage (including 55% with Part D)
- 33% of people with Part D get "Extra Help" (also called the low-income subsidy, or LIS)
- The Extra Help program can help you save an average of $3900 per year
- 92% of people with Part D can pay a lower premium in 2011 than they did in 2010
- 14 PDPs have $0 deductibles
- 8 PDPs have a premium of $0 per month for people who qualify for Extra Help
- $14.80 is the lowest monthly premium for a PDP
- $42.90 is the lowest monthly premium for a PDP with any generic coverage in the Coverage Gap.
Plan costs and coverage change each year, so all people with Medicare should check to make sure their plan still meets their needs and budget. There may be a Medicare health or drug plan available with better coverage or a lower deductible in 2011.