About Medicare Open Enrollment

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With more benefits, better choices and lower costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging people with Medicare and their families to begin reviewing drug and health plan coverage options for 2012. 

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period — which started Saturday, Oct. 15 — has been expanded to last seven weeks and will end Dec. 7. This will give seniors and people with disabilities more time to compare and find the best plan that meets their unique needs. Health and Human Services officials will hold 150 events in the days leading up to Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period to inform and educate people with Medicare across the country.

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 highlights 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, which is available at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, people will see the enhanced star ratings for 2012. 

Additionally, Plan Finder users will see an icon showing which plans received a low overall quality rating for the past three years.

In 2012, 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.

There are many proven resources available to review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings, including:

• Visiting www.medicare.gov, where they can get a personalized comparison of costs and coverage of the plans available in their area. Spanish Open Enrollment information is also available on the site.

• Calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for 24-hour assistance to find out about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Multilingual counseling is available.

• Reviewing the 2012 Medicare & You handbook. It is also accessible online at: http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf — and it has been mailed.

• Getting one-on-one counseling assistance from the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact is: at http://www.medicare.gov/contacts/organization-search-criteria.aspx or on the back of the 2011 Medicare & You handbook or by calling Medicare (contact information above).

• A listing of national stand-alone prescription drug plans and state-specific fact sheets can be found at:   http://www .cms.hhs.gov/center/openenrollment.asp

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. Apply online at: www.socialsecurity .gov/prescriptionhelp or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

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