Medicare Open Enrollment: Making the Best Choice for You

By Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director Center for Medicare

We’ve all had the experience of making outdoor plans for a weekend that’s supposed to be gorgeous, only to cancel when the weather turns out to be 48 degrees and drizzly. Despite our best planning, uncertainty is just a fact of life.

Health can be as unpredictable as the weather. It’s hard to know what you’ll feel like next week, much less what health care you’ll need next year – yet that’s exactly what you need to predict when you’re shopping for health coverage during Medicare Open Enrollment.

We know future needs can be hard to forecast, but taking stock of current circumstances can help. Maybe your family situation is different this year, or you have new health concerns. Maybe you’ve been traveling a lot, so you want a flexible plan that offers coverage in multiple states.

If you’ve recently retired —or even if you’re still working — you may have other health insurance options. If you do, make sure you understand exactly how that other coverage works with Medicare.

The good news is that now more than ever, you can find a plan tailored to your unique needs. There are better prescription drug plan choices, with premiums that generally have held steady from last year. A full 99% of people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans. Even better, Medicare Advantage Plan premiums in 2012 are 4% lower, on average, than they were this year.

The Affordable Care Act delivered better choices and more benefits to the Medicare program. So no matter which plan you pick, you’ll have access to benefits like these:

• A 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs if you hit the Part D prescription drug coverage gap (“donut hole”)

• A free Annual Wellness Visit, so you can sit down with your doctor and talk about your health concerns and the best ways to stay healthy

• A host of preventive tests and screenings — including cancer screenings — most at no cost to you

It’s worth it to take a look and compare coverage. We recently learned about a man in central Arkansas who’s had Medicare Part D since 2009. Last year, our State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselors helped him compare his Part D drug coverage with other plan options. They found a new plan that covered more of the prescriptions he needs. The Medicare Plan Finder can help you compare plans – check out our video on how the Plan Finder works.

So this year, this gentleman has been spending only $18.90 for 3 prescriptions each month — which saves him more than $720 a month. That’s real money.

As you start comparing coverage for yourself, you’ll find Medicare in the mail, on TV or the radio, in the paper, and on your computer. You’ll be hearing so much about Open Enrollment that it may not surprise you to get phone calls or visits to your house from people selling Medicare plans.

Remember to keep yourself and your personal information safe [link to blog #4 on fraud when posted]- we’ll never call and ask for your Medicare number or bank information, and we’ll never come to your home uninvited to sell Medicare products. Visit stopmedicarefraud.gov to learn what to do if this happens to you.

While you can’t always predict everything in life, you can do your best to be prepared. Medicare will be there to help you, stronger than ever.