Medicare Advantage - With the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare beneficiaries were given the option to receive their Medicare benefits through private health insurance plans, instead of through the original Medicare plan (Parts A and B). These programs were known as Medicare+Choice or Part C plans. Pursuant to the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, the compensation and business practices changed for insurers that offer these plans, and "Medicare+Choice" plans became known as Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.
One week from tomorrow, December 7, marks the end of the Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage annual Open Enrollment period, which started on October 15.
During this time, people with Medicare can select or change their Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or change the way they get their Medicare coverage for 2012.
Most of those who miss the December 7 deadline will have to wait until next year's annual Open Enrollment period - October 15-December 7, 2012 - to make any changes to their Medicare coverage for 2013. That means they could end up spending more in 2012 than if they review their options and make necessary changes now. The new dates were part of the recently passed Affordable Care Act, or health care reform.
"Plans change from year to year. It's important for people with Medicare to act now - review their current coverage, shop their plan options, and make any changes by December 7," said Nora Dowd Eisenhower, vice president, Benefits Access Group, and director of the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment. "This way, they will be in a plan come January 1, and for the rest of 2012, that best meets their individual financial and health needs."
NCOA Online Resources Can Help You
With a suite of tools from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), people with Medicare can more easily determine which plan best fits their needs and budget, and find other assistance to help them pay for prescription and health care costs.
My Medicare Matters (www.MyMedicareMatters.org) gives Medicare consumers the information they need to review their drug plan and other choices for 2012, so they have what they need to be savvy Medicare consumers. Consumers can find a guide to decision-making and helpful worksheets for selecting a drug plan. They can also learn about Medicare, including the decisions they must make when they are first eligible.
My Medicare Matters also offers detailed and practical information on two programs that help low-income people afford Medicare - the Medicare Savings Programs and the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS)/Extra Help. In addition to providing information online, the site gives users local referrals, so they can find further assistance on Medicare and other benefits and services in their communities. My Medicare Matters is funded in part by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.
The annual Open Enrollment period is also a great time for people with Medicare to use BenefitsCheckUp, NCOA's free and confidential online screening service (www.BenefitsCheckUp.org). Here, they can learn about changes to Medicare Part D and the Low-Income Subsidy/Extra Help and also discover whether they may qualify for additional benefits that can help them pay for prescription drugs, health care, and other household costs.
About NCOA - The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA is a national voice for millions of older adults - especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged - and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently, and remain active in their communities. For more information, please visit: www.ncoa.org
About BenefitsCheckUp - Developed and maintained by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), BenefitsCheckUp is the nation's most comprehensive web-based service to screen for benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources. It includes almost 2,000 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since 2001, more than 3 million people have used the service, identifying benefits valued at more than $10.5 billion. For more information, visit www.BenefitsCheckUp.org
About My Medicare Matters - My Medicare Matters is a community-based education and outreach initiative sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) with support from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP. For more information, visit www.MyMedicareMatters.org.
About AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals - AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines. As a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease medicines, AstraZeneca generated global revenues of $32.8 billion in 2009. In the United States, AstraZeneca is a $14.8 billion healthcare business. For more information about AstraZeneca in the US or the AZ&Me Prescription Savings programs, please visit: www.astrazeneca-us.com or call 1-800-AZandMe (292-6363).
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