Medicare Open Enrollment: shop around

In today’s world, we’re all a little more conscious of costs. Maybe we clip a few more coupons, eat out less, or compare ads to find the best price on something before we buy.

Cost is an important factor in any purchase, and health care is no different. We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. But you still need to make smart choices to get good value out of your health insurance.

There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage.How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year?

Prescription drug coverage is another part of the cost puzzle. How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan?  Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of more than 50% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to help.

The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that meets your needs. After you’ve narrowed your options, you can call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.

Whether groceries, health insurance, phone plans or anything else, you want value for your dollar.  Make sure you have the most up-to-date information out there.

Protect yourself and those you love – get your free flu shot

It’s that time of year again.  With the beginning of fall comes the beginning of flu season. 

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy!  It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season in the fall or winter, when given by doctors or other health care providers (such as senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Schedule your flu shot today!

When was your last mammogram?

Mammograms are breast cancer screening tests that can often detect a lump before you or your doctor can feel it. This can help detect breast cancer early, when it’s the most treatable. All women over 40 should have a screening 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. Take control of your health – better health is in your hands.

“Medicare & You” without the paper

Love your red, white, and blue “Medicare & You” handbook but love the convenience of getting information on your computer, tablet, or phone even more?

You can get all of the same information in your printed handbook online at Medicare.gov. Learn what’s new, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, the handbook information on the web is updated regularly, so you can instantly find the most up-to-date Medicare information.

On Medicare.gov, you can also do a lot of things on your own like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important dates. All this in time for October 15 – the start of open enrollment.

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

  • Search quickly for what you want and print only the pages you need, while getting the latest, up-to-date official Medicare information, including the most recent list of available plans
  • Get “Medicare & You” in different formats like large print, eBook or audio
  • Subscribe to get an e-mail when information is updated
  • Access personalized information

And, if you’d like to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version, we’ve got you covered. You can 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 e-mail including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.

Redesigned with you in mind – your Medicare Summary Notice

The Medicare Summary Notice has a new look to help you better understand your Medicare information. We’re excited to announce that you will soon start to see the award-winning, redesigned Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) hitting your mailboxes.  The new design puts clear language in an easy-to-follow format, so that your Medicare information is easier to understand.

As part of our “Your Medicare Information: Clearer, Simpler, At Your Fingertips” initiative, we listened to you and made the MSN better with:

  • An easy-to-understand snapshot that puts the information you care about most (like deductible status, a list of provider visits, and claim status) in one convenient place.
  • A dedicated section that tells you how to spot potential fraud.
  • Clearer language, descriptions and definitions.
  • Larger type that makes the MSN easier to read.
  • Preventive services information to help you stay healthy.
  • A clearer description of the appeal process to follow if you disagree with a claim.

If you have Original Medicare, you can expect this new design for the MSN to arrive in your mailbox throughout the next few months. Or, better yet, go to MyMedicare.gov, where you can check your Medicare claims information online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Get ready for your summer trip

If you’re planning a vacation this summer, you know there’s a lot to do before your leave – like buy sunscreen, book your flight, and renew your passport. Don’t forget to include 2 very important items on your travel to-do list if you plan to leave the country on your trip:

  1. Look into Medicare coverage outside the United States.
  2. Think about getting additional health care coverage.

You have Medicare, so your health care services and supplies are covered when you’re in the U.S., which includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. But, if you plan to travel overseas or outside the U.S. (including to Canada or Mexico), it’s important to know if your Medicare coverage will be different.

In most cases, Medicare won’t pay for health care services or supplies you get outside the U.S. Medicare may pay for health care and services you get outside the U.S. in these rare cases.

Because Medicare coverage outside the U.S. is limited, you may want to buy a travel insurance policy. To find out more about these policies, talk to an insurance or travel agent. Not all travel policies include health insurance, so ask questions and read the terms and conditions carefully.

Figuring out your health care coverage will help you be prepared so you can have a stress-free trip. To be even more prepared for your vacation, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Traveler’s Health page for more information on how to stay healthy abroad.

CMS Promotes Value for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities in Medicare Plans

By Jonathan Blum, Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare

With today’s regulation limiting overhead and profits for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, the Affordable Care Act continues to promote value for consumers’ and taxpayers’ health care spending. These new requirements apply to Medicare health and drug plans offered by private insurance companies serving over 37 million seniors and persons with disabilities, and build on a similar regulation we issued last year requiring a minimum medical loss ratio for health plans serving consumers in the private insurance market. Medicare health and drug plans, beginning next year, must meet a minimum medical loss ratio, limiting their spending on non-health related items such as administrative costs, profit, or overhead. More specifically, this means that the plans must spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on direct benefits to Medicare enrollees such as clinical services, prescription drugs and quality improving activities.

The new Medicare MLR requirements will also give people with Medicare and their caregivers more information about Medicare plans when comparing their health care options during enrollment periods. They will be able to consider a plan’s medical loss ratio, along with quality ratings, coverage, premiums and other factors that influence their health care decisions.

By ensuring that plan payments are spent on health care and activities that improve the quality of care received, seniors and persons with disabilities will have more opportunities to work with their doctors and other health care professionals to stay healthy. With Medicare spending already growing at a slower pace, the new requirements are just one more way the Affordable Care Act is creating more value for seniors and persons with disabilities. We are excited about new initiatives and projects that are improving the health of people with Medicare and are committed to making a stronger Medicare program.