Time’s Running Out to Switch Medicare Coverage
If you’re eligible for Medicare, our family practice doctors want you to know that you have until Dec. 7 to enroll or to make changes to your existing coverage. This is the so-called Open Enrollment Period, in which you pay nothing to change plans or coverage. So now’s the time to act and switch Medicare coverage.
During Open Enrollment you can:
- change how you get your Medicare coverage—Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan;
- switch Medicare Advantage Plans (that include or don’t include drug coverage); and,
- join, switch, or drop a Medicare prescription drug plan.
You’ve no doubt been inundated with mail, phone, TV, and social media solicitations for various plans. If this has left you a bit confused, we want to help you figure it out.
Medicare is a federally run health plan that was first offered to seniors ages 65 and over starting in 1965. Eventually it was expanded to include individuals with certain disabilities and end-stage renal failure (kidney disease).
There are four main types of Medicare available to this population:
- Part A, which covers hospital care, nursing faculties, and related services;
- Part B, which covers medical care and services, including preventive care;
- Part C (also known as “Medicare Advantage”), which combines Parts A and B into a single plan; and,
- Part D provides coverage for prescription drugs not already covered under Part B.
Parts A and B are also known as “Original Medicare.” The U.S. government administers these plans. Part C, or Medicare Advantage, may also include Part D, prescription drug coverage, depending on the plan. Medicare-approved private insurance companies administer Parts C and D.
In addition, Medicare supplement plans, also called “Medigap” insurance, help cover some of the costs that Original Medicare doesn’t. They, too, are privately run but are used in conjunction with Original Medicare, not with Medicare Advantage.
Part A is free, although it comes with a deductible that changes annually. Parts B, C, and D come with monthly premiums (fees).
The premiums can vary; in addition, each plan may come with a deductible of up to $445 (the 2021 limit).
Participants with lower incomes may qualify for help in paying Part D premiums through Medicare’s low-income subsidy program.
What we accept
In addition to Medicare and most traditional Fee-for-Service plans, Cohen Medical Associates participates with most products in the following plans:
- United AARP/United
- Blue Medicare
- Prominence Health Plan
Still need help?
We realize you may still have difficulty selecting the best plan Part D and Medicare Advantage plans for you. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) has a quick and easy way to sort through the more than 30 plans available. Go to https://www.medicare.gov, create an account, and answer a few questions.
Once logged in, you can:
- see drug prices based on any help you get
- compare your current plan to others
- access and store your drug list
- access other useful features
You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE to obtain Medicare plan information or compare plans, or read the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.
If you have any questions about your current plan or new Medicare options, please call our Business Manager, Nancy Weiser, at 561-496-4539. Nancy will review these plans with you and help you switch Medicare coverage based off which plan is best for you.
One final word of caution: The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a scam alert earlier this month about calls to Americans trying to obtain Americans’ Medicare numbers and other personal information during the Open Enrollment period.
The scam phone calls come in two versions:
- someone claiming they can enroll you in a better, cheaper plan than you currently have; or,
- a threat to discontinue your Medicare if you don’t re-enroll immediately.
The BBB warns of these common red flags:
- Be wary of anyone who contacts you. Medicare representatives don’t contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you’re already enrolled in their plans.
- Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive “sign-up gift” in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or other personally identifiable information.
- Beware of offers for “free health screenings.” Known as “cherry picking,” such offers may be used to weed out those who are less healthy.
- Guard your government-issued numbers. Never give out your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan information, or banking information to anyone you don’t know, especially if you didn’t initiate the call.
Finally, if you’re unsure whether a call or offer is from Medicare, or you gave your personal information to someone claiming to be with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report it.