Medicare Open Enrollment: Peace of mind with extra coverage

Going through the process of buying a new smartphone or tablet takes a bit of elbow grease, but when the salesman throws in free accessories and tech support, it’s worth it. There’s a peace of mind knowing that the support you’ll need is free.

Extra benefits and peace of mind can be a big plus in health coverage, too.

If you have Medicare, thanks to the health care law, you get to enjoy extra benefits like these:

Medicare also covers a yearly “wellness visit” each year. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and talk about your needs so you can address small health concerns before they become big ones. You can keep track of your preventive services and get reminders for them at

Also, most people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans, and many of these plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel.

Just like deciding which smartphone to buy, only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family.

During Medicare Open Enrollment, decide what benefits are most important in helping you meet your unique health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Be a smart shopper

Whether groceries, health insurance, or anything else, everybody wants to get the best value for their money. And health care is no different—that’s why it’s a good idea to shop around for a plan. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, especially when it comes to health care, but it’s not the only thing to consider.

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? If you’re currently in a plan, how does that plan stack up to the other plans that are available? Thinking about these things will help you make a smart choice to get good value that meets your own health care needs.

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 60% on covered brand-name drugs.

Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget, but we can 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.

And lastly, protect yourself from Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud wastes a lot of money each year and results in higher health care costs and taxes for everyone. Con artists commit Medicare fraud by getting people’s Medicare number. You can help fight Medicare fraud by never giving your Medicare number to get a free offer or gift. Protect your Medicare by protecting your Medicare number.

If you believe you or someone you know is a victim of Medicare fraud, you can:

  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
  • Report it online to the Office of the Inspector General.
  • Call the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). TTY users should call 1-800-377-4950.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Are you ready to pick a plan?

It’s picking season—pumpkins, apples, Halloween candy… and a Medicare health or drug plan. Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15–December 7!

Picking a plan is an important and personal decision. Each person has a unique set of priorities. When you sit down to review your Medicare health and drug plan choices this year, keep track of the things you may want in a plan, and pick one that’s right for you.

Here are some things to keep in mind while you consider your choices:

Does the plan cover the services you need?

Future health care needs can be hard to predict, but changes happen. Make sure you understand what services and benefits you’re likely to use in the coming year and find coverage that meets your needs. If you have other types of health or prescription drug coverage, make sure you understand how that coverage works with Medicare. And, if you travel a lot, look to see if your plan covers you when you’re away from home.

No matter what plan you pick, you’ll get these benefits:

What’s the cost?

The lowest-cost health plan option might not be the best choice for you—consider things like the cost of premiums and deductibles, how much you pay for hospital stays and doctor visits, and whether it’s important for you to have expenses balanced throughout the year.

How about convenience?

Your time is valuable. Ask yourself these questions: Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Which pharmacies can you use? Can you get prescriptions by mail? Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically?

Quality is important!

Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Open Enrollment is also a good time to ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating—the right expertise and care can make a difference.

Remember, even if you’re happy with your current plan, these answers might change from year to year, so it’s important to take the time to compare. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans based on all of these factors, so you can pick a plan that meets your needs.

Medicare Open Enrollment is coming soon—add it to your fall checklist

As fall sets in, the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, and Medicare open enrollment is right around the corner. Medicare’s Open Enrollment runs from October 15–December 7.

It’s important that your health plan meets the changing demands in your life. Now’s your chance to review your coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. Or, you may decide you’re happy with the plan you have now. If that’s the case, and the plan is still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything.

Over the next few months, look around—you’ll find a wealth of information about your Medicare benefits, especially in these everyday places:

In the mail

Look through your mail carefully—you may get important notices from your current plan, Medicare, or Social Security about changes to your coverage or any Extra Help you may get paying for prescription drugs.

Also, look for your Medicare & You handbook. It contains information about all of the Medicare plans in your area. If you decided to “go paperless,” you’ll get an email pointing you to where you can get all the same information.

You’ll also start to see brochures from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans. Just remember, be smart about protecting your personal information and your identity—plans aren’t allowed to call or come to your home without an invitation from you.

On your computer

Comparing your plan choices is important. Our Medicare Plan Finder is ready with all of the 2017 health and drug plan cost information to make it as easy as possible. Enter the drugs you take to find out how you can lower your costs and review the plan’s ratings to compare plan quality. If you find a plan that meets your needs, you’ll be able to join the plan right online starting October 15. If you haven’t used the Plan Finder before, check out our video to help you get started.

In your community

Take a moment as you enjoy these crisp mornings to review the Medicare information that’s out there. You may find a local event — somewhere right around the corner with counselors to help you, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Don’t miss the chance to get personalized help if you need it!

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, enjoy the choice and control you have over your health care coverage. Just like fall, Medicare Open Enrollment only comes once a year.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Time is running out!

It’s the holiday season and it seems like to-do lists are always pretty packed around this time of year. With family and job responsibilities, some pretty important tasks can get left to the last minute.

Picking the right health plan is a personal choice and a lot of thoughtful consideration goes into finding the right match. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, now is the time to make your selection. Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7. Time is running out, but just because we’re near the deadline, doesn’t mean the task is any less important.

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 second 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.

Save time with automatic payments

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 2016, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2015, one thing you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium. Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment?

Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans charge a monthly fee that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to the 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.

All you need to do is contact your 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, and contact your plan today. Rest assured knowing that your payments will be sent as scheduled—on time, every time.

Saving money on health costs: find out if you qualify for Extra Help

Do you find 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 can’t afford it? 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 monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription copayments in your Medicare drug plan. Drug costs in 2016 for most people who qualify will be no more than $2.95 for each generic drug and $7.40 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 Extra Help 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:

  • Apply online.
  • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1‑800‑325‑0778.
  • Apply at your local Social Security office.

Don’t wait—apply today to see if you qualify for some Extra Help with your health costs.