Medicare Open Enrollment Time Is Here Again

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period is October 15 – December 7, 2012. It is time for people with Medicare to compare plans and make sure they have the right health and prescription drug coverage.

This period does not apply to people who have both Medicare and Medicaid ("dual eligible"). Dual eligible recipients are allowed to make changes throughout the year. For most others, changes made during the Open Enrollment Period will be effective January 1, 2013.

Note: the Open Enrollment Period  does not affect purchasing or changing Medicare supplement plans (also known as Medigap plans).

Watch the Mail
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans are allowed to make annual changes within certain guidelines. Plans are required to send written notice to their members by the end of September 2012 regarding any changes for 2013. Look for mail received from your Medicare Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan.

Making the Most of Medicare in 2013
Medicare decisions can become complicated for seniors and those who help them. Here are some suggested DOs and DON’Ts:

DOs
* DO make sure you know what you have, and why you have it.
* DO make sure you understand when enrolling or making changes. Some health plans sell Medigap policies, Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Part D drug plans.
* DO decide if you want a change for next year. If you do nothing during the open enrollment period, you will automatically be renewed for the next year in whatever plan you are in.
* DO choose a Medicare Part D drug plan based on the drugs you are taking (unless you’re a member of a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes drug coverage).
* DO use Medicare’s internet tool for comparing drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans, www.medicare.gov; for help from Medicare (800) 633-4227 (24/7), or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

DON’Ts
* DON’T worry about the annual open enrollment period if you are a resident of a nursing home, recipient of Medicaid, or receive "Extra Help." These are some of the people who receive a Medicare Special Enrollment period and can make changes throughout the year.
* DON’T choose a Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage Plan just because your friend did. These are important individualized choices.
* DON’T pay more than you have to. Medicare assistance is available for people with low income and limited resources. For more information about the Medicare Savings Program or Part D Extra Help, visit
www.medicare.gov,
www.ssa.gov or call
(800) 624-5547,
(800) 238-1443, or
(877) 801-0044.

Remember, that the Open Enrollment Period is important for Medicare recipients who wish to make a change in how they receive their Medicare benefits. People on Medicare who don't want to make changes will stay on their same Medicare plan.

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