Medicare Open Enrollment is coming soon – add it to your fall checklist

Fall is the perfect time to take care of things around your house—like turning your clocks back and changing smoke detector batteries. Another important item on your fall checklist is Medicare’s Open Enrollment, which runs from October 15–December 7. It’s important that your health plan meets the changing demands in your life, so now’s your chance to review your coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. Or, you may decide you’re happy with the plan you have now. If that’s the case, and the plan is still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything.

Over the next few months, look around—you’ll find a wealth of information about your Medicare benefits, especially in these everyday places:

In the mail

Look through your mail carefully—you may get important notices from your current plan, Medicare, or Social Security about changes to your coverage or any Extra Help you may get paying for prescription drugs.

Also, look for your Medicare & You handbook. It contains information about all of the Medicare plans in your area. If you decided to “go paperless,” you’ll get an email pointing you to where you can get all the same information.

You’ll also start to see brochures from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans. Just remember, be smart about protecting your personal information and your identity—plans aren’t allowed to call or come to your home without an invitation from you.

On your computer

Comparing your plan choices is important. Our Medicare Plan Finder is ready with all of the 2016 health and drug plan cost information to make it as easy as possible. Enter the drugs you take to find out how you can lower your costs and review the plan’s ratings to compare plan quality. If you find a plan that meets your needs, you’ll be able to join the plan right online starting October 15. If you haven’t used the Plan Finder before, check out our video to help you get started.

In your community

Take a moment as you enjoy these crisp mornings to review the Medicare information that’s out there. You may find a local event—somewhere right around the corner with counselors to help you, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Don’t miss the chance to get personalized help if you need it!

Now’s the time to enjoy the choice and control you have over your health care coverage. Just like fall, Medicare Open Enrollment only comes once a year.

Get your Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs) electronically

Did you know you can now get your MSNs electronically? You can view and print your MSNs online at by signing up for electronic MSNs (eMSNs). With eMSNs, you won’t have to wait 3 months to get your paper MSNs. You’ll get an email each month letting you know that your eMSNs are ready to view and print.

Sign up now for a faster and more convenient way to get your MSNs.

Here are the benefits of signing up:

  • Reduce your mail. No more paper copies to file.
  • Access eMSNs faster at No more searching for where you filed your paper copy.
  • Help Medicare save money by lowering printing costs.
  • Help the environment by going paperless.

Signing up is easy. Visit the “Go paperless” page to find out how to sign up for eMSNs today.

Is it time for your yearly mammogram?

Over 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Getting a yearly mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early. Mammograms are breast cancer screening tests that can detect a lump before you or your doctor can feel it. This helps to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. All women over 40 should have a mammogram every 12 months – and Medicare covers it at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so let’s join together in the fight against breast cancer.

Guard Your Medicare Number

By Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Program Integrity

Fight health care fraud: guard your Medicare number!

The next Medicare Open Enrollment season (October 15 to December 7) is almost here, which means fraudsters and identity thieves will increase their efforts to get and abuse Medicare numbers from people like you.

Fortunately, there are many measures you can take to fight health care fraud:

  • Guard your Medicare number. Protect it the same way you do for your credit card numbers. Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information. Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
  • Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
  • If you’re looking to enroll in a Medicare plan, be suspicious of anyone who pressures you to act now for the best deal. There are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers”. Any offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
  • Be skeptical of free gifts and free medical services. A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away—they just need your Medicare number to confirm. Decline politely but firmly. Remember, it’s not rude to be shrewd!
  • Do your part to protect your friends and neighbors: remind them to guard their Medicare numbers, too.
  • Check your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) to make sure you and Medicare are only being charged for services you actually had. Instead of waiting for the MSN, which comes in the mail every 3 months, you can access your Original Medicare claims at You’ll usually be able to see a claim within 24 hours after Medicare processes it.

You can report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. To learn more about how to protect yourself from health care fraud, visit or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To find the SMP in your state, go to the SMP Locator at

Know the signs for ovarian cancer

Women have unique health concerns, including certain types of cancers and high rates of chronic disease. Medicare covers many services to address these concerns, like a yearly wellness visit, bone mass measurement, cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, and cardiovascular screenings. Medicare also covers other preventive services, so talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

Did you know ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of cancers among women, but it causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system? Early diagnosis is the key to survival, and the key to early diagnosis is recognizing the symptoms of ovarian cancer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgency or frequency of urination

Currently there’s no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, and it can be very hard to identify ovarian cancer early. The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t always clear and may be hard to recognize. It’s important to pay attention to your body and know what’s normal for you. If you notice any changes in your body that last for 2 weeks or longer and may be a sign or symptom of ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor and ask about possible causes. Symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional.

Make sure to ask your doctor about your level of risk for ovarian cancer at your “Welcome to Medicare” visit or your next Yearly “Wellness” visit.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a perfect time for you to learn more about this disease and know the symptoms. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for more information on ovarian cancer.

Go paperless with “Medicare & You”

Did you know you can read the red, white and blue “Medicare & You handbook” right on your smart phone, computer or tablet?

Visit to find all of the same information online you’re used to seeing in your printed handbook. Learn what’s new, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, we update the handbook information on the web regularly, so you can instantly find the latest Medicare information.

You can also do a lot of things on your own at—like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important dates—all before October 15, the start of Medicare Open Enrollment.

Take advantage of some other great features to get just what you need:

Want to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version? Choose to get your next “Medicare & You” handbook electronically by using the “go paperless” option. In a few simple steps, you’ll be all set. Sign up today, and we’ll send you an email including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.

Also, check out our video for a brief look at some of the features you’ll find at Medicare & You on the web.

Turning 65 soon? Transitioning to dual Medicare and Medicaid coverage and getting help with costs

If you’re enrolled in Medicaid and will soon have Medicare eligibility, it’s not too soon to start planning ahead. Once Medicare eligibility begins, you’ll have a 7 month Initial Enrollment Period to sign up. For most people, this is 3 months before, the month of, and 3 months after their 65th birthday.

Once you have Medicare and Medicaid coverage, Medicare will cover your Part D prescription drugs and you’ll automatically qualify to get Extra Help paying for your drug costs. If you have limited income and resources, you may also qualify for help paying for your Medicare Part B premium and other Medicare costs, like deductibles and coinsurance. Medicare and your state Medicaid program work together to provide you with this help, called the Medicare Savings Programs.

The 4 Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs)

If you have income from working, you may qualify for these 4 MSPs, even if your income is higher than the income limits listed below. Each program has a different income and resource eligibility limit. Even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, you may qualify for one of these programs to help you cover your Medicare costs.

How do I apply for Medicare Savings Programs?

If you answer yes to these 3 questions, call your State Medicaid Program to see if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program in your state:

  1. Do you have, or are you eligible for, Part A?
  2. Is your monthly income for 2015 at, or below, $1,333 (single) or $1,790 (married or living together)?
  3. Do you have limited resources, less than $7,160 (single) or $10,750 (married or living together

It’s important to call or fill out an application if you think you could qualify for savings—even if your income or resources are higher than the amounts listed here.

What items are included in the Medicare Savings Program resource limits?

Countable resources include:

  • Money in a checking or savings account
  • Stocks
  • Bonds

Countable resources don’t include:

  • Your home
  • One car
  • Burial plot
  • Up to $1,500 for burial expenses if you have put that money aside
  • Furniture
  • Other household and personal items

How can I keep my costs down?