Medicare annual enrollment starts Oct. 15
Oct. 11, 2012 — Oregon Medicare beneficiaries need to remember that annual enrollment this year is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Any Medicare Advantage (MA) or prescription drug plan (Part D) changes must be made between these dates so that coverage begins without interruption on Jan. 1, 2013.
The Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program, a federally funded program available to help Oregon’s more than 650,000 Medicare beneficiaries, has counselors available statewide at 1-800-722-4134 to provide free, unbiased one-on-one assistance during annual enrollment.
Medicare health and drug plans mailed “Annual Notice of Change” letters to current members in September. This letter outlines any changes to cost and covered benefits in 2013, including whether plans will be available.
“Annual enrollment then offers an opportunity to compare current coverage with other plans and decide whether to make changes for 2013,” SHIBA Manager Lisa Emerson said.
SHIBA counselors can help beneficiaries compare plans by using the plan finder tool found online at www.Medicare.gov.
“Our counselors also can provide tips to beneficiaries or their family members who want to compare plans on their own,” Emerson said. ”SHIBA counselors have been able to help people save hundreds of dollars on their prescription drug costs just by taking the time to do a yearly comparison.”
Here are SHIBA tips for comparing plans:
Find your insurance cards: You may need your red, white, and blue Medicare card to review benefit details or enroll in a new plan. If you have a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, you may also need that card.
Update your list of prescription drugs: Check with your doctor to make sure you understand each prescription. Is a generic available? Can you eliminate any unneeded medications? Based on your list, do you have the right plan for you?
Use the Medicare.gov plan finder: The plan finder uses your prescription list to compare prescription drug and Medicare Advantage health plans in your area. Not all companies cover the same drugs so it’s important to have a complete list of your medications and dosages when using this tool.
Contact your doctor, hospital, and pharmacy before making changes: Not all health and drug plans contract or work with the same providers. If you switch plans, make sure you understand which providers you can see for the best price.
Apply for help with drug costs: If you have limited income and assets, you may qualify for extra help with prescription drug costs. SHIBA counselors can help you apply for this benefit through Social Security.
More information and assistance
SHIBA: To meet with a counselor, contact the toll-free SHIBA Helpline at 1-800-722-4134. You will be asked to enter your ZIP code to be connected to a program in your area. Visit www.oregonshiba.org to view a calendar of available one-on-one counseling appointments or information events available in your county or to find a copy of the 2013 Oregon Guide to Medigap, Medicare Advantage, and Prescription Drug Plans. The guide for 2013 will be available online in mid-October.
Medicare: Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you understand your coverage options and enroll in a plan.
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