Get your Medicare ready for 2015

Do you make resolutions for the new year? Here are some easy ones you can keep that will help get you ready for 2015:

1. Check to see that you have the right insurance card to use when you go to the doctor in 2015. Did you change your health or drug plan during Medicare Open Enrollment? If you did and you haven’t received your new card or welcome packet by January 1st, contact your plan for help. If you need to fill a prescription right away, find out how to fill a prescription without your card.

If you changed from a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) back to Original Medicare, use your red, white, and blue Medicare card when you go to the doctor. Get a new card if you lost or damaged yours, or need to update your information.

2. Budget for next year’s Medicare Part B deductible.

Remember, if you have Medicare Part B and you’re in Original Medicare, you’ll have to meet your deductible before your Medicare coverage pays for services and supplies. Next year, the Medicare Part B deductible will be $147, the same as it was in 2014. Plan your health care budget to account for the increased cost of doctor visits for the time that it will take to cover your deductible. Find out more about Medicare costs in 2015.

3.  Schedule appointments to get any preventive tests or screenings.

Medicare covers all sorts of preventive services to keep you healthy and screenings to check for health problems, and many are covered each year at no cost to you. Ask your doctor when you should schedule your wellness visit and other screenings. You can also use MyMedicare.gov to track your visits and make a calendar of preventive services.

Talk to your doctor about these covered preventive services to find out what’s right for your health needs.

4. Make sure your drug or health plan meet your needs.

If not, Medicare has a way for you to get the coverage you want instead of having to wait for the next Open Enrollment. At any time during the year, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that has a 5-star rating.

Plan ratings are based on member surveys, information from doctors and health care providers, and other sources. The plan ratings are scores that show the quality and performance of the plan, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest rated plans.

You can make this change once per calendar year. Find 5-star health and drug plans in your area.

Remember to check www.medicare.gov for the latest Medicare news and information, and have a happy and healthy new year!

Medicare Open Enrollment: is Medicare still on your “to do” list?

“To do” lists are very helpful during this hectic time of year. If something important isn’t written down, it’s easy to forget. If you still haven’t crossed off “Compare Medicare coverage” from your to do list, time is running out!

Medicare Open Enrollment ends this week on December 7. To help you sort through your choices, try using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can review the plan options in your area and decide the best mix of benefits and costs that meets your needs and budget.

In these last few days of Medicare Open Enrollment, take a moment to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. If you decide you’re happy with the plan you have now, and the plan’s still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything. But if you’re thinking about making any changes, now’s the time to act so you can cross another item off your to do list.

Support World AIDS Day – wear your red ribbon

Did you know that every year 50,000 people are diagnosed with HIV? Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, 1 in every 6 doesn’t even know they have it. December 1st 2014 is World AIDS day and the theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care. At least 1 in 3 people in the U.S. who test positive for HIV is tested too late to get the full advantage of treatment. Testing is also an important first step in getting HIV-infected people the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.

What can you do to help achieve an AIDS-free generation? Medicare covers HIV screening for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (like gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

Visit Aids.gov to learn more about World AIDS Day and CDC.gov to learn more about their Act Against AIDS campaign.

To find an HIV test site, visit HIVtest.cdc.gov or text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948).

Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking

Every year, more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer and smoking is the leading cause. Don’t become a statistic – Medicare is ready to help you quit smoking. Talk to your doctor today and cross one thing off your list.

Besides being famous for Thanksgiving, November is also Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout. While you’re making lists for the upcoming holiday season, make a note to talk with your doctor about quitting if you smoke. Medicare covers 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling sessions during a 12-month period. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an illness caused or complicated by tobacco use, you pay nothing for these counseling sessions, as long as you get them from a qualified doctor or another Medicare provider.

Prescription drug plan premiums: make it automatic

We like when things are automatic. From smart phone reminders to automatic coffee makers – it’s nice when something’s done before we even need to think about doing it. Whether you’ve already picked a new plan for 2015, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2014, one thing you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium.

Most Medicare drug plans charge a monthly premium that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to your Medicare Part B premium. It’s important to pay this premium on time to keep your coverage and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment? All you need to do is contact your Medicare drug plan (not Social Security). Your first deduction will usually take 3 months to start, and 3 months of premiums will likely be deducted at once. After that, only one premium will be deducted each month. You may also see a delay in premiums being withheld if you switch plans. If you want to stop premium deductions and get billed directly, just let your plan know.

Take the worry and guesswork out of when to pay your premium bills – contact your plan today.

Saving money on health costs: Medicare’s Extra Help

Have you ever found yourself skipping a day of your medication or cutting your pills in half to make your supply last a little longer? Or, have you put off filling a prescription because you’re having trouble making ends meet? If so, we can help. Medicare has a special program called “Extra Help.” If you have limited income and resources, you can sign up to get help paying things like your monthly premium, annual deductible, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. In 2015, drug costs for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.65 for each generic drug and $6.60 for each brand-name drug.

Even if you’re not sure you’d qualify, it’s worth filling out an application to see. Many people with Medicare may be eligible for the Extra Help program but don’t even know it. Are you or a family member one of them?

It’s easy and free to apply for Extra Help. Here’s how:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. In addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they e-prescribe? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, check to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Do you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state? If so, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.