| Wed, Oct 02, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Get Smart, Be Prepared: Medicare Open Enrollment Boot Camp

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

medicare open enrollmentThe second in a series of eight articles to help you make informed Medicare coverage decisions. View the first installment here.

You may soon feel like you are the most popular person on earth. Your mailbox may be overflowing, your phone ringing more than usual and emails stacking up in your inbox.

Not to burst your bubble, but it is Medicare Open Enrollment season. You have from October 15 to December 7 to change your Medicare coverage for 2014 if you choose to.

You may get a lot of information during this time from Medicare, private insurance companies and insurance agents. Some of it may be relevant and helpful as you consider your Medicare choices. Some of it may seem confusing.

Read on to learn what to look for—and what to look out for—during Medicare Open Enrollment.

Find the Information You Need

The information you receive in the mail and from other sources can be a valuable resource. Specifically, you should receive a print or digital copy of Medicare & You, which Medicare publishes each year at the end of September. This publication outlines the benefits offered by Original Medicare for the following year. It also explains any changes that Medicare has made from the previous year. Medicare Advantage plans, which are Medicare health plans offered by private companies contracted by Medicare, must offer at least the same benefits as Original Medicare does. Many offer additional benefits as well.

It’s smart to do some research on your own, too. You can use Medicare’s online Plan Finder tool to look up all the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans offered by private companies where you live. These can change from year to year.

Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is also a good resource. It offers free counseling to help you understand your Medicare choices and make coverage decisions. SHIP can also help you figure out if you’re eligible for help paying for Medicare.

In addition, it’s unfortunate, but Open Enrollment is Open Season for Fraud. We posted this article last year, and it’s worth revisiting. It provides tips to help you stay on your toes and avoid fraud during Medicare Open Enrollment and in the future.

A Word About Health Exchanges

The health insurance exchange, which is formally called the Health Insurance Marketplace, is part of the Affordable Care Act. It allows individuals and small businesses to see and compare the health insurance options available to them.

People receiving or eligible for Medicare benefits are not affected by the Health Insurance Marketplace. You will continue to get your health benefits from Original Medicare or private Medicare plans, which are separate from the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Take Charge of Your Choices

Medicare Open Enrollment is for your benefit, in spite of the information overload you may experience.

Each year, you get this chance to choose the coverage that you think best fits your needs. Yet more than two-thirds of people surveyed in 2013 for the Medicare Made Clear Index said they haven’t shopped around for Medicare coverage in over three years. At the same time, 35 percent said they were paying more than they expected.

Changes in your health, your life, or your plan benefits and costs may mean you would be better off changing your coverage. But even if none of these things has changed, you owe it to yourself to review your Medicare coverage every year and to check out other plans that are available in your area.

View the next article in our weekly Boot Camp series for more information, tools and support during Medicare Open Enrollment. Be prepared to make an informed decision about your Medicare coverage for 2014.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources

Medicare & You: Learn about Original Medicare coverage and costs in this annual publication.

Plan Finder: Look for Medicare plans offered where you live.

State Health Insurance Assistance Program: Find contact information for your state’s SHIP office

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