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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Medicare plans open enrollment begins Nov. 15

Beneficiaries encouraged to review coverage

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging all Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the annual Open Enrollment period to make sure they have the best coverage available to meet their health care needs in 2011.

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period this year begins on Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 31. During the Open Enrollment period, current or newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, including people with Original Medicare, can review current health and prescription drug coverage; compare health and drug plan options available in their area, and choose coverage that best meets their needs.

“There’s never been a better time for Medicare beneficiaries to check out their Medicare coverage,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D. “The new health care law provides additional benefits to people with Medicare, including lower prescription drug costs through a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs in the coverage gap, also referred to as the “donut hole,” wellness checkups, and no copayments for preventive care – a benefit that most Medicare Advantage plans also offer. By shopping for next year’s coverage now, people with Medicare may find even greater savings or better coverage than they are getting this year.”

“With better plan choices available for 2011, Medicare beneficiaries can think of Open Enrollment as their yearly coverage ‘check-up,’” Berwick said. “If they’ve had any changes in their health, Open Enrollment is the time to double-check coverage options and make good choices that meet individual needs.”

Resources for Medicare Beneficiaries
People with Medicare, their families and other trusted representatives can review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings, using many proven resources, including:

Visiting www.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 and Medicare Options Compare tools have been enhanced for an efficient review of plan choices. Multilingual Open Enrollment information and counseling 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.

Reviewing the 2011 Medicare & You handbook. It is also accessible at www.medicare gov and has been mailed to the homes of people with Medicare benefits.

Getting one-on-one counseling assistance from the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact information can be found:

At http://www.medicare.gov/contacts/organization-search-criteria.aspx or

On the back of the 2011 Medicare & You handbook or;

By calling Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY, 1-877-486-2048)

Through 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

Medicare beneficiaries who cannot meet the costs of prescription drugs may be eligible for additional resources. Based on eligibility for “extra help,” some people Medicare will pay no more than $2.50 for each generic drug and no more than $6.30 for each name brand drug. The program, called Medicare's Limited Income Newly Eligible Transition (NET) Program, can also help pay for premiums and other out-of-pocket costs.

There is no cost to apply for this extra help. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, trusted counselors or caregivers can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp 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
The new health care law also provides better tools to help fight waste, fraud and abuse to help protect Medicare. CMS offers tips to help beneficiaries protect themselves against fraud and identity theft during the Open Enrollment period. Medicare recommends that people treat their Medicare number as they do their social security number and credit card information.

Beneficiaries should not give personal information to anyone arriving to 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 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY, 1-877-486-2048). More information is available at http://www.stopmedicarefraud.gov/.

More information is available at www.healthcare.gov, a new web portal from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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