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

Just like the changing leaves, did you know that the fall also brings your chance to make changes to your Medicare coverage? Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15–December 7. It’s your chance to review your health care 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 aroundyou’ll find information about your Medicare benefits in these everyday places:

  • In the mail

Look through your mail carefullyyou 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 new “Medicare & You” handbook. It has information about all of the Medicare plans in your area.

You’ll also start to see brochures from companies that offer Medicare health and drug plans. You may decide that a Medicare health plan is right for you. Just remember, be smart about protecting your personal information and your identityplans 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 2018 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 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

You may find a local eventsomewhere right around the corner, with health insurance counselors to help you, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Don’t miss the chance to get personalized help if you need it!

Medicare Open Enrollment: time is running out

“To do” lists are very helpful during this hectic time of year. If something important isn’t written down, it’s easy to forget. If you still haven’t crossed off “Compare Medicare coverage” from your “to do” list, time is running out!

Medicare Open Enrollment ends next week on December 7. 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.

Prescription drug plan premiums: make it automatic

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 2017, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2016, something you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium.

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. Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment?

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 1 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.

Saving money on health costs: get Extra Help

Have you ever found 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’re having trouble making ends meet? 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. The 2017 drug cost amounts aren’t available yet. Check back early next year for the new amounts.

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 the Extra Help program 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:

Don’t wait – apply today to see if you qualify for some extra help with your health costs.

Medicare Open Enrollment: the value of convenience

Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. So in addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:

Doctor and hospital choice

You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?

Pharmacy access

Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they use e-prescribing? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, it’s worth checking to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.

Travel

Maybe you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state. If you do, see if your coverage will travel with you.

Quality

Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.

Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.

We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.

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 MyMedicare.gov.

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.