xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Medicare open enrollment begins, lasts until December 7

Many senior citizens will be reviewing their Medicare plans, as the almost two-month open enrollment season to make changes has begun.
Medicare beneficiaries can swap advantage plans and prescription drug coverage until Dec. 7 - an open enrollment period that occurs around the same time ever year. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities is holding programs and offering personalized sit-down meetings to help seniors navigate their Medicare options.
The Affordable Care Act has not changed Medicare too much, but this two-month span is always a good time for those age 65 and older to review other Medicare options, said Tina Herrero-Backe, the SHIP coordinator for Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities.
She emphasized taking a hard look at prescription drug plans. Some have increased prices; some have decreased. There are new ones as well as a plan that is cheaper than any offered last year.
"Even if a beneficiary's drugs have stayed the same, it still makes sense to go to open enrollment because the plans have changed," Herrero-Backe said, "and so they can see if there's something out there more affordable for them."
Beneficiaries have two main options when it comes to Medicare.
The Medicare Advantage Plan is administered by Medicare and provided by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. It combines hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B) and typically prescription drug coverage (Part D) into one, according to Medicare & You 2014, the U.S. government official Medicare handbook.
In most plans, the beneficiary will need to use plan doctors, hospitals and other providers. If not, they will pay more or all of the cost, the handbook states.
Nationwide, the majority of Medicare beneficiaries choose to receive their health insurance through original Medicare, according to Herrero-Backe.
It consists of hospital and/or medical insurance (most have both), and the beneficiary must join a prescription drug plan separately if they'd like medicine covered. A beneficiary can also choose to purchase a Medigap policy, which is sold by private companies and can help pay some of the costs that original Medicare doesn't cover. These include co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles, according to Medicare.gov.
Those on original Medicare have their choice of doctors, hospitals and other providers that accept Medicare, according to the official Medicare handbook.
From now until Dec. 7, beneficiaries can join, switch or drop Medicare Advantage Plans and a prescription drug plan. Changes are effective Jan. 1.
Then from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, a beneficiaries can switch to original Medicare and pick up a prescription drug plan if they choose, according to the Medicare handbook.
Typically, Herrero-Backe said, Medicare beneficiaries know what makes the most sense for them once they understand how it all works.
"For a lot of people, it's a gut feeling," she said. "A lot of people know whether they're more comfortable with original Medicare or the advantage plan."
With original Medicare, beneficiaries typically know more of an exact number their health coverage - not including prescription drugs - will cost them per year if they have a Medigap policy. With Medicare Advantage Plans, there's more of a wide range based on frequency of use, Herrero-Backe said.
In Carroll County, there's one change this open enrollment period. Aetna is dropping two of its Medicare Advantage Plans in the county.
This affects 206 Aetna members in Carroll, according to Walt Cherniak, an Aetna spokesman. They should have all received letters alerting them of this fact, Herrero-Backe said.
Those who must switch plans, anyone wishing to discuss their options or anyone wanting to see if they qualify for financial assistance can schedule a free appointment with the SHIP office. They can also participate in open enrollment events around the county.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement