Medicare Open Enrollment: Extra Benefits & Preventive Services

By Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Medicare

I belong to a gym I really like. It has all the equipment I use – weights, cardio machines, a pool. But what really sold me on membership were the extra features and services: personal training and convenient parking, among others.

Extra benefits can be a big plus in health coverage, too.

A full 99% of people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans in 2012, and these plans often offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer vision, hearing, or dental coverage, or extend coverage while you travel. Most Medicare Advantage Plans also include prescription drug coverage.

Even better, Medicare Advantage Plan premiums are predicted to be 4% lower in 2012, on average, than they are in 2011. It’s worth it to compare.

Folks in Original Medicare will enjoy more benefits this year, too. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, EVERYONE with Medicare has access to a variety of preventive tests and screenings, most at no cost to them. That’s right – no cost.

Covered services include screening tests for colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease, just to name a few.  Just during the first half of this year, 20.5 million people with Original Medicare got one or more free preventive services through the end of July. 

Medicare also covers an Annual Wellness Visit each year. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and take the time you need to talk about your needs — and address small health concerns before they become big ones.

To help you track these services, take this checklist to your next doctor’s visit. This comprehensive list spells out the Medicare-covered preventive services and lets you keep track of when you got a particular test or service, and when you’re due for your next one.  You also can get preventive service reminders on http://www.mymedicare.gov.

 Just as you and I might look for different things in a gym, we almost certainly also need different kinds of health coverage. Only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family.

That’s why we want to make sure you have choice and control over the Medicare benefits you’ve earned.  Look around for all the Medicare information out there. And visit our Open Enrollment center, where we’ve gathered everything you need, including a video on how the Medicare Plan Finder works, to walk through your options.