Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their prescription and health plans once a year. These changes could result in savings on medical costs, or increased access to new benefits such as wellness visits and preventive care services.
Changes to Medicare health plans can only be made between October 15 and December 7, 2011. They will take effect on January 1, 2012.
Saving Money Is Just One of the Benefits
The open enrollment period is available for people who receive health coverage directly from Medicare as well as those who receive coverage from private insurance companies approved by Medicare. In other words:
- Members who receive benefits directly from Medicare can switch to a Medicare-approved private insurance company or the other way around
- Members can switch from one Medicare-approved private insurance company to another.
Changing plans may mean more savings on out-of-pocket costs, as well as prescription drugs. Beneficiaries may also be able to choose or change their doctor or pharmacy.
It’s Worth Comparing
Comparing plans is the best way to figure out if it’s worth making any changes.
Medicare has a plan finder that lets you compare the cost and range of services from health providers in your area. By using this tool you can:
- See what types of drugs are covered under each health plan
- Calculate out-of-pocket expenses
- See how satisfied current members are with a specific health plan
How to Get Help
Medicare.gov has several resources to help you understand the different types of coverage.
If you still have questions you can get personalized help in your area by searching by topic and getting helpful contacts and websites. You can also always call Medicare at 1 (800) 447-8477.
Watch out for Scammers
Scammers are always looking to take advantage of people, especially when there are changes to Medicare services. Be on the lookout for people trying to sell unsolicited products or services under the guise of Medicare services, as they might try to steal your identity. You should protect your Medicare number as well as your Social Security number.
You can report Medicare fraud online or call 1 (800) 447-8477.
Learn more about the health and drug plans available.
Patients in Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals now have the right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay, regardless of whether or not the visitors are family members.
According to new guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hospitals can’t discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Patients will also be allowed to name a person of their choice, including a same-sex partner, to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are medically unable to do so.
The new guidance updates the Conditions of Participation, which are standards that apply to all Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals, critical access hospitals, and patients in those hospitals even if they aren’t on Medicaid or Medicare.
Hospitals will need to have written policies that explain visitation rights, as well as clear guidance on when hospitals may restrict access based on reasonable clinical needs.
Learn more about the new visitation rights guidance.
These days we have checklists for just about everything. Have you considered one for preventive care services to help you and your family stay healthy?
Take this checklist to your doctor to find out what preventive services are right for you. It spells out the Medicare covered preventive services and helps you keep track of when you received a particular test, screening, or service, as well as when you are due for your next one.
These services ranging from smoking cessation counseling and flu shots to a yearly “wellness” visit, are offered free of charge to patients covered by Medicare.
The cost of prescription drugs is a concern for many older Americans. Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug plan that is available to anyone on Medicare. People enrolled in Medicare Part D pay a monthly premium and the program helps cover prescription drug costs. Americans 65 or older, or younger people with certain disabilities, are eligible for Medicare.
Finding a Prescription Plan
There are many prescription drug plans available to people enrolled in Medicare and each plan varies in cost and coverage. Many people still have to pay some of their drug costs out of pocket, even with Part D coverage. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to check prescription plan options.
Lowering Your Cost
There are some ways to lower your drug costs on your own. Talk to your doctor about drugs that cost less, like generics, over-the-counter, or less expensive brand name drugs that could work as well as the ones that you take now. There are also government and private programs that might be able to help you with medical and drug costs.
If you’re not already enrolled in Medicare Part D, joining may help, even if you have to pay a late enrollment penalty.