Seniors Digest
KIPDA Area Agency on Aging and
Independent Living
  November 1, 2011 

Have You Done Your Yearly Medicare Plan Review?

Medicare Open Enrollment is different this year.

Daughter helps Mom select a Medicare plan

The Medicare annual Open Enrollment Period began on October 15, 2011 and ends December 7, 2011. People with Medicare are able to make enrollment changes in their health and prescription drug coverage for 2012, if necessary, during this time. During Open Enrollment you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO). If you're already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can use Open Enrollment to switch back to Original Medicare. Your new coverage will begin on January 1, 2012.

Each year, there are Advantage plans and prescription drug coverage choices. You should review your current health and prescription drug coverage each fall. There are new benefits available including lower prescription costs, wellness visits, and preventative care. Choosing the right plan for you can help save money by finding a plan that costs less than your current plan and which covers all of your drugs.

Is your plan still a good plan for you? You should take time to compare your current plan with the new plan options available in 2012. If you are satisfied with their current plan and the current plan does not intend to significantly change coverage benefits, you do not need to do anything in order to maintain that coverage. If you want to change plans, contact the plan you want to join either by phone or their website. Also, Medicare provides local resources, the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), to help you enroll online, in person, at an event in your community or on the phone.

There are four ways to get the help you need:

  1. Visit the Medicare Plan Finder. People comfortable with navigating the internet should take advantage of the enhanced online Plan Finder options. This feature offers information on available drug plans, including out-of-pocket costs and pharmacy networks. This tool also enables you to compare drug plan options for Medicare Advantage plans in your area.

  2. Look at your most recent "2012 Medicare and You" handbook. The handbook contains a listing of Advantage Plans and Prescription Drug Plans available in your area. You should also review any information you get from your current plan, including the Annual Notice of Change letter sent each fall.

  3. Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and say "Agent" when you get the recorded prompt. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends. If you need help in a language other than English or Spanish, let the customer service representative know the language. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

  4. Call for free personalized health insurance counseling by calling the local SHIP. To get the phone number for the SHIP in your area, see the back cover of your "Medicare and You Handbook," visit Medicare Helpful Contacts, or call-1-800-MEDICARE.

Another focus for this year's open enrollment period is the "Extra Help" program. If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for "Extra Help" to pay for your drugs. Visit or call 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.

Remember, the Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period begins October 15, 2011 and ends December 7, 2011. There won't be a better time to check out Medicare coverage options. 

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