Every year Medicare has an open enrollment period; this year’s open enrollment runs from October 15 – December 7, 2012. This is the time when people eligible for Medicare services can compare plans and make sure they have the right health and prescription drug coverage.
This year is UNIQUE with the new healthcare legislation, The Affordable Care Act (ACA). Understanding the changes that accompany the ACA, and choosing a health and drug plan carefully is even more urgent for people with disabilities and chronic conditions, as choosing correctly could translate into increased benefits and lower costs to participants.
Here is an overview of some of the changes you’ll see in the federally funded health care program called Medicare:
- Health Insurance Exchanges: The Health Insurance Exchanges are a set of state-regulated and standardized health care plans where individuals may purchase health insurance that is eligible for federal subsidies. The intention of the Exchanges is to help insurers comply with consumer protections and to compete in cost-efficient ways that ultimately lower overall health costs. The Exchanges are state-run and are called American Health Benefits (AHB) Exchanges. For states that choose not to create an exchange, the federal government will create one for residents of that state.
- New Rating System and Notifications: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has implemented a star rating system for Medicare-approved health plans. These star ratings summarize how well the plans perform with regard to access to care, responsiveness, and beneficiary satisfaction. Medicare will notify beneficiaries about plan performance in order to encourage people to enroll in high quality plans.
- Online Plan Finder: Participants can use the online Plan Finder to compare plans available in their state and make any decisions necessary regarding changing their plans or coverage.
- Preventative Health Benefits: Free preventative health benefits have been added, including cancer screenings and an annual wellness visit. These are at no cost to patients when furnished by qualified and participating health care professionals.
- Lower Costs for Prescription Drugs: Average premiums for 2013 for prescription drug coverage and Medicare health plans will remain stable. People who are in the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit will see up to a 53 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and see increased savings on generic drugs.
The Hydrocephalus Association has created a page on our website, Medicare Open Enrollment, to provide a consolidated list of resources you can visit to learn more, as well as get some basic definitions you should know when you are discussing Medicare and other government-sponsored health programs.
With the changes in health care under The Affordable Care Act, we encourage anyone currently receiving Medicare benefits to review your current plan and compare it with new plans being offered. To find your AHB Exchange and begin reviewing your current coverage and costs, visit one of the resources below.
- Visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare your current coverage with all of the options that are available in your area, and enroll in a new plan if you decide to make a change.
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24-hours a day/7 days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
|Special note: Enrollment flexibility for people affected by Hurricane Sandy|
Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7, but if you need more flexibility, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Your enrollment in your new plan will start the first day of the month after you enroll. For example, if you enroll on January 10, your plan coverage will begin February 1.