Medicare Open Enrollment Period Starts Today
Medicare open enrollment kicks off today, bringing changes to seniors' health and drug plans.
The Wall Street Journal: "Coming changes to Medicare will benefit some recipients - but will make coverage more expensive for people with higher incomes. Thanks in part to this year's health-care overhaul, everything from benefits and enrollment rules to the number of choices available will be affected beginning Jan. 1. While most beneficiaries' premiums will remain relatively stable in 2011, those who already pay higher premiums for doctor's visits and other 'Part B' coverage will also pay more for 'Part D' prescription drug coverage come Jan. 1. What's more, insurers are eliminating or consolidating hundreds of Medicare-related plans this year, in part to comply with recent regulations aimed at reducing duplicative plans. As a result, as many as one million Medicare recipients will have to choose new coverage, according to AARP. For those with traditional Medicare, the biggest change on the horizon is an expansion of benefits. Starting Jan. 1, Medicare will completely cover the cost of many [preventive] services, including mammograms, Pap tests and screenings for prostrate and colorectal cancer, as well as one annual 'wellness' examination" (11/13).
Minnesota Public Radio: "Topping the list of changes this year is a sharp reduction in the number of Medicare Advantage plans. Government studies have concluded the 'advantage' in many of the Medicare Advantage plans goes not to the policy holders, but to the bottom line of the insurance companies selling the policies, and there's a move by the government to phase them out. The other significant change this year is more prescription drug coverage for many, but not all, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the voluntary drug plan" (Olson, 11/15).
The Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek: "Insurers offer hundreds of different plans around the country, all with their own sets of variables like different deductibles, premiums and co-insurance. UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. are the two largest Medicare Advantage plan providers. This year, about 24 different plans will be offered in each county, even though the overall total fell about 13 percent nationwide, [the Kaiser Family Foundation] said, citing in part new rules encouraging consolidation of low enrollment and duplicative plans. About 11.8 million Medicare beneficiaries, or nearly a quarter of the total Medicare population, were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan as of Sept. 30" (11/12). (KHN is a project of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)
The Richmond Times-Dispatch: "The Medicare Rights Center, a consumer advocacy organization, recommends that beneficiaries ask these questions before enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans" such as: "Will I be able to use my doctors? Are they in the plan's network, and are they taking new patients who have this plan? Which specialists, hospitals, home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities are in the plan's network? How much is my monthly premium? Are my prescription drugs on the plan's formulary (list of covered drugs)?" (Smith, 11/14).
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Although "average premium prices [for Medicare prescription drug plans] have increased for the last five years and are predicted to jump again in 2011, only 7 percent of the 27 million enrollees switch plans each year. It's not hard to guess why. The process, research and shopping can feel like a complicated maze for seniors and family members who try to help. An analysis by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation predicts the average plan premium will increase by 10 percent this coming year, to $40.72, if beneficiaries stay with their choice" (Soto, 11/14).
Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald: "Each year from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to enroll in, switch or disenroll from Medicare standalone prescription drug plans (Medicare Part D) and Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C)" (11/15).
The Salt Lake Tribune: Seniors whose Medicare Advantage plan is being discontinued "will automatically be enrolled in original Medicare for hospitalization and out-patient coverage, [but] they wouldn't have prescription coverage or Medigap supplemental insurance that picks up what Medicare doesn't pay for" unless they choose a new plan (Henetz, 11/15).
The (Johnstown, Pa.) Tribune-Democrat: "In past years, a second open enrollment period allowed plan holders to switch plans between Jan. 1 and March 31. That open enrollment period has been eliminated. After Jan. 1, plan holders can only drop the Medicare Advantage coverage and switch back to original Medicare. The switch must be made before Feb. 15. Elimination of the second enrollment period is one of several changes Medicare users will notice next year" (Griffith, 11/15).