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!

 

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 Medicare.gov 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.

Guard Your Medicare Number

Fight health care fraud: guard your Medicare number!

The next Medicare Open Enrollment season (October 15 to December 7) is almost here, which means fraudsters and identity thieves will increase their efforts to get and abuse Medicare numbers from people like you.

Fortunately, there are many measures you can take to fight health care fraud:

  • Guard your Medicare number. Protect it the same way you do for your credit card numbers. Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information. Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
  • Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
  • If you’re looking to enroll in a Medicare plan, be suspicious of anyone who pressures you to act now for the best deal. There are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers.”
  • Any offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
  • Be skeptical of free gifts and free medical services. A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away—they just need your Medicare number to confirm. Decline politely but firmly.
  • Do your part to protect your friends and neighbors: remind them to guard their Medicare numbers, too.
  • Check your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN)—which gives you information on services submitted under your Medicare number—to make sure you and Medicare are only being charged for services you actually received. While the MSN is only mailed to you every 3 months, you can access your Original Medicare claims at any time on MyMedicare.gov. You’ll usually be able to see a claim within 24 hours after Medicare processes it.

You can report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. To learn more about how to protect yourself from health care fraud, visit Medicare.gov/fraud or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To find the SMP in your state, go to the SMP Locator at www.smpresource.org.

Save time & paper—Get “Medicare & You” electronically!

Did you know that instead of getting a paper copy of your “Medicare & You” handbook every fall, you can sign up to get it electronically? The eHandbook is an online version of your trusted “Medicare & You” handbook and has all the same information as your paper copy. The difference is that it’s updated throughout the year so you’ll never be looking at outdated information. It’s also searchable, so you can find the information you need quickly and easily.

To sign up for the electronic version of the “Medicare & You” handbook, visit Medicare.gov/gopaperless and follow 3 simple steps:

  1. Enter your Medicare information.
  2. Confirm that you no longer want your paper copy of “Medicare & You” and only want the electronic version.
  3. You’ll now get the eHandbook instead of the paper copy.

Help the environment and enjoy finding your Medicare information faster. Go paperless today!