Medicare open enrollment is October 15-December 7

By Stefanie Donahue

Seniors and other qualified Medicare recipients can make changes to their coverage during open enrollment, Sunday, October 15 through Thursday, December 7.

Individuals 65 and older, qualified younger people with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease qualify to participate in the insurance program, which covers an estimated 55 million people and provides beneficiaries access to critical health services.

Currently four components of the program cover specific medical needs, according to Medicare.gov. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a nursing facility, hospice care and some types of home healthcare; Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers some doctor’s services, outpatient care, medical supplies and other preventative services; Medicare Part C (Advantage Plans) is offered by private entities that cover both Part A and B benefits; Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) is added to original Medicare plans.

Medicare cards are delivered by mail three months before a person turns 65 or on the 25th month a person has received disability benefits. Participants can see the Medicare plan they’re enrolled in and when it starts by looking for a Part A or Part B designation on their card.

Throughout the year, cost, coverage and the number of participating providers and pharmacies change under the federal health insurance program, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Open enrollment allows beneficiaries to compare their existing plan with new ones in order to obtain coverage that better suits their needs.

Many of the same benefits remain for Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plan holders including access to no-cost preventative care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, plans can be eliminated from the insurance program on an annual basis; if that’s the case, beneficiaries will receive notice by October.

“If you’re in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, always review the materials your plan sends you, like the ‘Evidence of Coverage’ (EOC) and ‘Annual Notice of Change’ (ANOC),” according to medicare.gov. “Make sure your plan will still meet your needs for the following year. If you’re satisfied that your current plan will meet your needs for next year and it’s still being offered, you don’t need to do anything.”

Information about next year’s plans will become available in October and new coverage begins January 1. To find or compare plans in your area, visit Medicare.gov/find-a-plan or call the 24-hour hotline at 1-800/633-4227.

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