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.

Find the dialysis center that’s right for you

If you or a loved one has kidney problems requiring dialysis, often known as End-stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you know finding the right care can be a challenge. Dialysis centers can vary in the quality of care and services they provide, so it’s important to understand the differences in dialysis centers in your area before you decide where to go for care. If you’re already on dialysis, it’s also important to understand the quality of care that your dialysis center delivers. Dialysis Facility Compare lets you search for dialysis centers, compare them side by side, and find the right one for you.

In response to feedback from ESRD dialysis patients and experts in kidney care, we’ve recently added more information to the Dialysis Facility Compare website, including information about patients’ experiences with dialysis centers. Now you can see how patients responded to a survey that asked questions about their dialysis center, their kidney doctor, and the center’s staff.

“The changes we’ve made to the Dialysis Facility Compare website are in direct response to the important feedback we received from patients and families, like you, about what’s most important in selecting your dialysis facility,” said Kate Goodrich, M.D., director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “We remain committed to seeking and incorporating input from all stakeholders, but especially patients, on an ongoing basis so that we can continually improve our Compare sites.”

Dialysis Facility Compare also features:

  • A star rating for each dialysis center that now reflects changes in quality for each center, from one year to the next.
  • Two new quality measures—one that tells you how often patients develop bloodstream infections at each center, and another that tells you how well the center manages peritoneal dialysis on children.
  • An improved website that makes it easier to find the information you’re looking for, and makes complex quality information easier to understand.

Take control of your dialysis care today. Visit Dialysis Facility Compare and find the dialysis center that’s right for you.

Medicare also offers a number of other Compare websites that can help you select providers across your care needs, including Nursing Home Compare, Physician Compare, Hospital Compare, and Home Health Compare. Visit these websites to learn more about our efforts to make health care quality information more transparent.

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.

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.

Stop the flu before it hits

Colder weather is here, which means flu season isn’t far behind. Getting your free flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and loved ones this season.

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy! Flu viruses change from year to year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when it’s given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare. Learn more about the flu and find a flu vaccine location near you at Flu.gov.

Schedule your flu shot today!

Don’t forget your mammogram this year!

Over 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, making it one of the most common cancers in women. Getting a yearly mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early.

Mammograms are breast cancer screenings that can detect a lump up to 3 years before you or your doctor can feel it. This helps to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. All women between the ages of 50–74 should have a mammogram every 12 months—and Medicare covers mammograms at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment. Talk to your doctor about risk factors and to schedule your next screening.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month—show off your pink ribbon and join the fight against breast cancer!