By Don Berwick, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
With the start of this year’s Medicare Open Enrollment less than two weeks away, I can’t stress one point enough: Medicare is stronger than ever. Consumers have more and better Medicare options than ever before.
Seniors this year can expect more choices, more benefits, and lower overall costs.
Because it’s a fact: 99% of you have at least one Medicare Advantage plan in your area. And everyone with Medicare can get a host of preventive tests and screenings —more than ever before — at absolutely no cost to you. Medicare also continues to cover an Annual Wellness Visit – a great chance to talk with your doctor or other health provider about treating small problems and concerns before they become big ones.
Here’s the best part: even with these improved benefits, people won’t be feeling it in their pocketbooks. Average premiums for Part D drug coverage are holding steady in 2012, and premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are actually dropping an average of 4%. And people who reach the Part D coverage gap will get a 50% discount on brand name drugs.
This is all great news for the 47 million American seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare.
We know that more choices can make decisions challenging, but we’ve expanded the Medicare safety net to make sure folks can get the help they need to sift through their options. You can even get an early start — we’ve already made sure the Medicare Plan Finder is fully updated with all new 2012 cost and benefit information for health and drug plans. If you’re the kind of person who likes to get online yourself and sort through the details, you can use this online tool right now. Start by entering your drugs and checking on the doctors and pharmacies you want to use. A few steps will get you to a personalized list of your plan choices and help you compare.
If you’d rather get a personal hand walking through your choices, we’ve got help for you, too. You can call or visit one of the thousands of wonderful volunteers staffing the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs across the country.
One more way we’re going to help – every week during Open Enrollment, we’re going to have some of our top health care experts adding tips and advice to this blog, to give you some important things to consider as you weigh your choices. When Medicare Open Enrollment ends on December 7, we want every single American with Medicare to have health and drug coverage that meets their needs. Are you ready?