Medicare Open Enrollment Is Now Open

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Have you done your Yearly Medicare Plan Review?

Medicare Open Enrollment October 15– December 7

Remember, Medicare plans can change each year

Important Medicare dates

September & October– Review & compare
Review: Your plan may change. Review any notices from your plan about changes for next year.
Compare: Starting in October, use Medicare’s tools to find a plan that meets your needs.

October 15– Open Enrollment begins
This is the one time of year when ALL people with Medicare can make changes to their health and prescription drug plans for the next year.
Decide: October 15 is the first day you can change your Medicare coverage for next year.

December 7– Open Enrollment ends
In most cases, December 7 is the last day you can change your Medicare coverage for next year. The plan has to get your enrollment request (application) by December 7.

January 1– Coverage begins
Your new coverage begins if you switched to a new plan. If you stay with the same plan, any changes to coverage, benefits, or costs for the new year will begin on January 1

Making changes to your coverage after January 1.
Between January 1– February 14, if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.

Is your plan still right for you?
Medicare can show you plans in your area that may:
Cost less
Cover your drugs
Let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy

You can also get:
An estimate of your out-of-pocket costs
Quality and customer service ratings from current plan members

Decide which plan will meet your needs for next year. Call the plan you want to join if you want to change plans. Medicare can also help you enroll– online, in person, at an event in your
community, or on the phone. If you’re satisfied that your current coverage will meet your needs for next year, you don’t need to do anything.

Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can use Open Enrollment to switch back to Original Medicare.

4 ways to get the help you need

1. Visit Medicare.gov/ find-a-plan to use the Medicare Plan Finder.

2. Look at your most recent “Medicare & You” handbook to see a listing of plans in your area. You should also review any information you get from your current plan, including the “Annual Notice of Change” letter.

TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. If you need help in a language other than English or Spanish, let the customer service representative know the language.

4. Get free personalized health insurance counseling by calling your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). To get the phone number, visit Medicare.gov/ contacts, or call
1-800-MEDICAR

Between January 1– February 14, if you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can leave your plan and switch to Original Medicare. If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you’ll have until February 14 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage. Decide which plan will meet your needs for next year. If you want to change plans, call the plan you want to join. Look at your most recent “Medicare & You” handbook to see a listing of plans in your area.

Medicare Open Enrollment 2015

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Medicare’s upcoming annual Open Enrollment Period runs from Wednesday, Oct. 15 to Sunday, Dec. 7. And finding the right Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or private insurer’s Medicare Advantage health plan (Part C) really matters.

In fact, a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 46 % of people who switched their Medicare plans during open enrollment saved at least 5 % the next year.

With hundreds of policies to choose from– and so many details to understand– most people 65 or older simply guess when choosing theirs. The result? Paying too much for a plan that doesn’t cover what you need.

Below, how to make the wisest choices if you will buy a Medicare Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan or switch out of the one you have. (A one-stop shopping Medicare Advantage plan combines coverage for hospitals, doctors and often prescription drugs; some also include vision, hearing and dental care; its premium may be less expensive than what you ‘d pay with the combination of Original Medicare, a Medigap plan and a Part D plan.).

What’s Different This Year.

The news: Many companies are consolidating their Part D policy offerings, so the number of plans for 2015 will decline by about 14 %, according to Avalere Health. But you’ll still have about 30 Part D plans to choose from.

If you already have a Part D plan and think you want to keep it, you may need to see if yours is still available. Your insurer should have notified you if yours will be discontinued.

The average premiums for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans will rise in 2015, but only slightly. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the average Part D premium will go up by an average of $1 a month, to $32, and the average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan is due to increase by $2.94, to $33.90. Some Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, of course, will see premiums jump more than that. CMS predicts that about 61 % of Medicare Advantage enrollees won’t see any increase in 2015.

It’s also worth noting that the prescription drug “doughnut hole”– the coverage gap for medications– will shrink in 2015, as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Next year, when your out-of-pocket drug costs are between $2,960 and $4,700, you’ll be in the doughnut hole (that happened at the $2,850 threshold in 2014). You’ll pay 45 % of the cost of brand-name drugs, down from 47.5 % in 2014, and 65 % of generics, down from 72 %.

4 Tips for Medicare Open Enrollment Shopping.

Before you start shopping, review these four tips from the National Council on Aging (NCOA):.

Tip No. 1: Don’t miss the enrollment period. This is the one guaranteed time each year that anyone with Medicare can change plans.

If you’re about to turn 65 and not enrolled in Medicare yet, your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare Parts A, B and D runs from three months before your 65th birthday to three months after. NCOA’s educational service, My Medicare Matters offers a free Medicare QuickCheck that will provide you with a personal report including your initial enrollment date. Also worth reading: Next Avenue blogger Caroline Mayer’s new Washington Post article about her experience trying to enroll in Medicare.

(MORE: What Are Medicare Advantage Plans?).

You can delay enrollment in Medicare Parts A, B, and D if your insurance meets certain requirements if you’re still working when you turn 65. Find the rules here.

Choosing a Medicare plan is too important to leave to guesswork. Take the time to review your health insurance needs before Open Enrollment.

Do you have any chronic conditions?
Which hospitals and doctors do you use?
Which prescriptions do you need and what pharmacies do you get them from?

Tip No. 3: Scrutinize your current policy and compare it with the alternatives available. Insurance companies can make changes to policies every year. Because your medications and doctors were covered last year doesn’t automatically mean they will be in 2015, just.

Bear in mind that Medicare Advantage plans are usually Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) with a restricted network of doctors and health care providers. That’s why it’s essential to see that your preferred doctors and hospitals are in the Medicare Advantage plan you’re considering. If they’re not, you may want to stick with Original Medicare, which lets you see any doctor who accepts Medicare.

When checking your plan against others you could buy, find out: the premium costs, co-pays, co-insurance and the providers and prescription drugs that are covered. The average monthly premium for Part D and Medicare Advantage plans will be around $33, the premiums vary widely– from as little as $15 in some areas to over $200, depending on the plan– and those figures don’t include additional costs such as deductibles and cost sharing.

If your health has changed in the past year or you fell into the “doughnut hole” in 2014, see if your current plan is still meeting your needs.

Go through your records to see how much you paid out-of-pocket in 2014, so you can decide whether the policy you have is a good fit for you or if there’s another plan with similar or better coverage that will cost you less. Medicare’s online Plan Finder can help you assess the costs of plans in your area.

Learn more

Tip No. 4: See if you qualify for help paying your out-of-pocket Medicare costs. There are programs designed for people struggling to pay their prescriptions, health premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance. If you’re eligible for help, ncoa offers a free online BenefitsCheckUp where you can see. Or, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program to see what’s available.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the average Part D premium will go up by an average of $1 a month, to $32, and the average monthly premium for a Medicare Advantage plan is due to increase by $2.94, to $33.90. Some Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, of course, will see premiums jump more than that. If you’re about to turn 65 and not enrolled in Medicare yet, your Initial Enrollment Period for Medicare Parts A, B and D runs from three months before your 65th birthday to three months after. NCOA’s educational service, My Medicare Matters offers a free Medicare QuickCheck that will provide you with a personal report including your initial enrollment date. If they’re not, you may want to stick with Original Medicare, which lets you see any doctor who accepts Medicare.