| Tue, Sep 27, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

Getting Ready for Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

To be ready for the AEP, it pays to know all your plan options. The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare is October 15 – December 7. During this period you can make a number of changes to your Medicare coverage. For example, you may switch from Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) to a private Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan, or you can purchase a private Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to complement your Original Medicare coverage. After December 7, the enrollment period closes. Except in certain cases, changes are not allowed again until next year’s AEP, so it’s a good idea to write these important dates on your calendar and begin planning now.

Your Starting Point: Original Medicare

When you first become eligible for Medicare, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare. Medicare Part A provides coverage for hospital stays and most services involved with inpatient care. Medicare Part B provides medical insurance for doctor’s visits and services, many tests and screenings, and some doctor services received in a hospital, like administration of chemotherapy drugs.

Additional Care: Medicare Advantage

To be ready for AEP, you need to understand your options. If you’re looking for additional benefits like vision, hearing, dental or wellness care, Medicare Advantage plans may provide a solution. Offered by private companies, Medicare Advantage plans include all of the hospital and medical insurance of Original Medicare, but usually includes other benefits, such as those described above. Many Medicare Advantage plans are also available with Part D prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans require that you are enrolled in Original Medicare and are paying your Part B premium. Some plans require an additional premium, and may also require deductibles, copays and coinsurance. You can join Medicare Advantage plans during the Annual Enrollment Period.

Original Medicare + Prescription Drug Coverage

For many, Original Medicare might provide enough insurance coverage, were it not for the absence of a prescription drug benefit. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans are available for Original Medicare beneficiaries who wish to add this coverage without adding other benefits they may not use. Part D prescription drug plans are provided by private companies, often the same companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans. Part D plans also require a separate premium from your Original Medicare premium and may require deductibles, copays and coinsurance, too. You can join prescription drug plans during the Annual Enrollment Period.

You May Want to Research Your Plan Before the AEP Begins

The official Medicare website Medicare.gov provides a handy tool for researching Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Here’s how to use the plan finder tool:

•    After supplying some basic health and location information (like your ZIP code), the plan finder lets you select a Part D prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with or without prescription drug coverage.

•    When you compare plans, you can review costs and ratings before selecting individual plans to contact for more information.

•    There’s even a handy “Enroll” button that lets you to join a plan online if you’re ready to do so. If you would prefer to speak with a representative or sign up using an enrollment form, you can also contact a plan by telephone using the numbers provided.

The Annual Enrollment Period provides about seven weeks to enroll in a Medicare plan. If you’re new to Medicare and are unfamiliar with the choices available to you, or you want to make changes to your existing coverage, it’s a good idea to begin your research early so you can make well-informed, timely decisions.

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. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week. Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov Things to Think About When You Compare Medicare Drug Coverage – Medicare.gov

Resources:

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov

Things to Think About When You Compare Medicare Drug Coverage – Medicare.gov

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