Medicare Fall Open Enrollment Now Underway Through December 7th
By Mary Johnson, editor
Irene H., a senior living in Central Virginia, will achieve a milestone this fall that few other 86-year olds can boast. The thrifty senior who takes three prescription medications every day, including an expensive brand name eye drop for glaucoma, will cut her prescription drug costs by more than $3,000 since 2006. Her secret? Every year during the fall Medicare Open Enrollment period Irene learns about the changes in her drug plan for the upcoming year, and then compares all her options for drug coverage. She changes plans when she finds better coverage at a better cost — something she’s been able to do almost every year.
Irene is the first to say she wouldn’t know where to begin when it comes to figuring out the best deal for her drug coverage. To accomplish this she visits me for unbiased advice and counseling. I’ve been helping seniors compare their drug plans since the start of Part D in 2006. The cost differences between plans can be huge — Irene saved about $1, 276 in 2011 alone.
Unfortunately for us these extreme differences in cost are not unique. Almost every Medicare beneficiary enrolled in a Part D drug or Medicare health plan can achieve savings if you carefully compare all your options every year and switch when you find better coverage. All that’s required is computer access, the Medicare Drug and Health Plan Compare tools on the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov and, most importantly, determination to give it a try.
Insurers make major changes in their plans every year, like increasing premiums, co-pays, dropping coverage and even closing plans altogether. But according to a survey conducted by TSCL earlier this year, less than 18% of respondents said they switched their Part D or Medicare Advantage health plan for 2011. Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment period started earlier this year on October 15th and ends earlier on December 7th. You should start the process now to find out what your choices are and how much you could save with a new Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.
Sorting this out isn’t easy for most seniors or family members that try to help them. Medicare Part D can befuddle all of us. But comparing plans saves so much, where else are you going to get this sort of return for your time? If you don’t have computer access, or you’re just not sure how to start, get the help of a Medicare benefits counselor from your State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Many of the programs operate through local Area Agencies on Aging or you can call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).