Allsup: Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Comes a Month Early With Many Changes

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Medicare beneficiaries should begin planning now as annual enrollment starts Oct. 15; changes to prescription drug, other plans anticipated.

If you need help sorting through the information to make a decision, it’s important to know organizations like Allsup can help take the guesswork out of reviewing and choosing your plan.

Millions of seniors and others relying on Medicare may be caught off guard by the change in Medicare’s annual open enrollment period this year, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection services and Social Security disability representation.

Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare annual open enrollment period changes to Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2011. Last year, it was held Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. All Medicare beneficiaries are allowed this one time each year to make changes to their Medicare coverage for the coming year. This includes anyone using traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug and Medigap supplemental coverage.

“It’s important you prepare now for annual enrollment if your current plan doesn’t meet your needs,” said Adrienne Muralidharan, senior Medicare specialist for the Allsup Medicare Advisor®. The Allsup Medicare Advisor is an impartial Medicare plan selection service that helps people understand and choose the most affordable and appropriate Medicare coverage for their healthcare needs. (Allsup is not a Medicare plan provider and does not accept commissions from insurance providers.)

While the earlier Medicare open enrollment period may take people by surprise, it will help ensure they have their updated Medicare membership cards at the start of 2012.

“With this change, people will have an easier time seeking healthcare when January arrives, since Medicare will have more time to confirm coverage for 2012,” Muralidharan said. “In the past, some people with Medicare had to pay out-of-pocket for care at the start of the year because enrollment went through Dec. 31. With earlier enrollment, from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, the transition to the new year should happen more smoothly.”

Other Changes for Medicare Coverage 2012

Several additional changes are coming to Medicare in 2012. Muralidharan provides additional detail on these in an audio interview at http://www.allsup.com/portals/4/ama-podcast.wav. These changes include:

  •     Prescription drug (Part D) costs will change. Costs overall will increase slightly, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Standard Benefit Plan, which outlines the minimum allowable plan coverage. However, detailed cost information on individual plans will not be available until later this year. Estimates show that initial Part D deductibles will increase to $320.
  •     Medicare recipients reaching the donut hole will benefit from higher prescription drug discounts. The gap in prescription drug coverage (the donut hole) starts when someone reaches the initial coverage limit, which is estimated at $2,930 for 2012, and ends when they have spent $4,700. During the donut hole, all costs are covered by the individual out-of-pocket. In 2012, people who reach the coverage gap will receive a 14 percent discount on generic drugs (up from 7 percent in 2011) and a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs (unchanged from 2011).
  •     Cost for Medicare Part B premiums likely to increase. Increases to existing Medicare Part B (medical insurance) premiums are tied to the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which is announced in October. For two years, there has been no COLA increase. Preliminary forecasts indicate there will be an increase in COLA for 2012, meaning all Medicare beneficiaries are likely to experience an increase in Part B premiums.
  •     Medicare Advantage plans see changes. While healthcare reform is reducing rebates paid to Medicare Advantage plans, these plans continue to be popular. Nearly one in four, or 24 percent, of Medicare recipients enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2010. Most people will continue to have dozens of Medicare Advantage plans as well as Part D plans available to them. However, these providers can change the coverage options they offer from year to year.

According to Muralidharan, most Medicare beneficiaries should receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by Sept. 30. CMS is expected to make information available to the public on Medicare.gov in October.

“It’s important to carefully review the information sent to you by your plan provider, since this will cover any possible changes. For example, increasing co-pays, changes to drug formularies or changes to treatment coverage,” Muralidharan said.

“For some people, however, this can be overwhelming,” Muralidharan added. “If you need help sorting through the information to make a decision, it’s important to know organizations like Allsup can help take the guesswork out of reviewing and choosing your plan.”

For an evaluation of your Medicare options, please call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or go to http://medicare.allsup.com.

RADIO/BLOG BROADCAST NOTE: An interview with Adrienne Muralidharan on Medicare changes can be downloaded at http://www.allsup.com/portals/4/ama-podcast.wav.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

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Mary Jung
for Allsup
(773) 429-0940
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Mary Jung
Allsup
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