Medicare Open Enrollment Begins Early This Year, Advises Greg Olsen, NYSOFA Acting Director
Greg Olsen, New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) Acting Director, reminds older New Yorkers that Medicare's Open Enrollment period begins early this year and that they should use the opportunity to make sure that their health and prescription drug plans meet their needs. This year’s Open Enrollment Period is from October 15 - December 7, allowing Medicare beneficiaries to review their current plans and make changes if appropriate.
The Open Enrollment is the one time of year when people with Medicare can see what new benefits Medicare has to offer and make changes to their coverage.
“People’s health and financial status can change over the course of a year. At the same time, Plans can change what they will cover and also adjust the cost to the beneficiary. This is an important time a year for individuals to take a look at the plans, what they cover and what they cost to assure they are getting the best deal for themselves," Acting Director Olsen said. "The Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP) counselors, at your local office for the aging, can help you find a plan that is both a good value and meets your health care needs if you are not able to do so yourself."
Linda Petrosino, HIICAP Coordinator for New York State said “Medicare beneficiaries should read all of their mail especially any communications from their current health plans in order to understand and react to changes for 2012. With 29 Medicare Part D plan choices and dozens of Medicare Advantage Plan options, beneficiaries should review their needs and select the best plans for themselves."
Medicare beneficiaries, their families and other trusted representatives can review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings, using many proven resources, including:
- Visiting Medicare.gov, where they can get a personalized comparison of costs and coverage of the plans available in their area. The popular Medicare Plan Finder tool has been enhanced for an efficient review of plan choices. Spanish Open Enrollment information is available.
- Calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for around-the-clock assistance to find out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Multilingual counseling is available.
- Reviewing the 2012 Medicare & You handbook. It is also has been mailed to the homes of people with Medicare.
- Getting one-on-one counseling assistance from a New York State Health Insurance, Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP) counselor at their local Office for the Aging or by calling the HIICAP Hotline number, 1-800-701-0501.
Beginning on October 15, people with Medicare can begin reviewing the 2012 quality ratings for Medicare Advantage health plans (Part C) and prescription drug plans (Part D) for the upcoming year.
This year CMS is highlighting plans that have achieved an overall quality rating of 5 stars with a high performer or "gold star" icon so people with Medicare can easily find high quality plans. People with Medicare can switch to an available 5-star plan at any time during the year.
Using Medicare's Plan Finder — people will see the enhanced star ratings for 2012. In addition to the enhanced star ratings for 2012 and new "gold star" icon, Plan Finder users will see an icon showing which plans received a low overall quality rating for the past three years.
In 2012, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, additional benefits to people with Medicare include lower prescription drug costs through a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs in the coverage gap (also referred to as the "donut hole"), wellness checkups, and access to certain preventive care with no copayments — a benefit that all Medicare Advantage plans will offer starting in 2012.
People with Medicare who have limited incomes and resources may qualify for Extra Help paying for their prescription drug costs. There is no cost to apply for Extra Help, also called the low-income subsidy. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, trusted counselors or caregivers can apply online or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) to find out more.
Protecting Against Fraud and Identity Theft
During this Open Enrollment Period, NYSOFA and Medicare remind people to treat their Medicare number as they do their social security number and credit card information. People with Medicare should never give their personal information to anyone arriving at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should contact Medicare (contact information above). More information is available at Stop Medicare Fraud.