Q1Medicare.com Reminds Medicare Beneficiaries that the 2010 Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period Ends March 31

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The annual Medicare Advantage plan Open Enrollment Period closes on March 31 and after this date millions of Medicare beneficiaries will not be able to change their Medicare plan coverage until 2011. However, Medicare beneficiaries still have a limited time to add, change, or even drop a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are available in several different forms and are offered by private companies. Many Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage and provide members with an affordable healthcare alternative. Medicare Advantage plans are available on a county-by-county basis and Q1Medicare.com provides an online tool so site visitors can quickly view select features of all Medicare Advantage plans across the country.

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Medicare beneficiaries are reminded that March 31 marks the end of the 2010 Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period. During the Open Enrollment Period or OEP, Medicare beneficiaries can join, change or even cancel a Medicare Advantage plan. After the March 31 deadline, most Medicare beneficiaries will be required to stay with their same Medicare health coverage until 2011.

What is a Medicare Advantage plan?
A Medicare Advantage plan is a Medicare approved health plan operated by a private company and responsible for providing Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B benefits to its members. Often a Medicare Advantage plan will include prescription drug benefits; however, Medicare Advantage plans without prescription coverage are also available for beneficiaries receiving their prescription coverage from another source.

Are there different types of Medicare Advantage plans?
Medicare Advantage plans are offered in several different forms including: Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs), or Private Fee for Service (PFFS) plans. Typically, Medicare Advantage HMO plans have a rather restrictive network of doctors and hospital, whereas PPO plans have a more flexible health network, and PFFS plan has no formal healthcare network, however a PFFS plan can be used only where the healthcare provider accepts both Medicare and the PFFS plan’s terms and conditions.

Medicare Advantage plans are not the same as Medicare Supplements or Medigap policies. Medicare Advantage plans provide at least all of the medically-necessary services of original Medicare A and B, whereas, a Medigap policy works in addition to original Medicare – filling the “gaps” in the original Medicare coverage. Medicare beneficiaries are also reminded that these two forms of coverage cannot be used together.

What does a Medicare Advantage plan cost?
Members of a Medicare Advantage plan pay a monthly plan premium, along with their existing Medicare Part B premium. The monthly premiums vary with the type of plan and the county where the plan is located. In some counties, Medicare Advantage plans that also include prescription drug coverage can be found with monthly premiums of $0. However, unlike Medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans are not standardized and premiums, as well as the cost of coverage, can also vary widely from plan-to-plan or county-to-county. Therefore, Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to fully understand the benefits provided by a Medicare Advantage plan before making any enrollment decision.

What can you do during the OEP?
A Medicare beneficiary can make a number of different choices up through March 31, but beneficiaries cannot add or drop their prescription drug coverage. For example, during the OEP, a person enrolled in a 2010 stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, can join a Medicare Advantage plan that also includes prescription drug coverage. Likewise, a person already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage can cancel their Medicare Advantage plan, automatically return back to their original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, and then enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. However, if a person does not have prescription drug coverage, they can only join a Medicare Advantage plan that also does not provide prescription drug coverage. If someone decides to leave a Medicare Advantage plan that does not provide prescription coverage, they will automatically return to original Medicare and not be allowed to join a prescription drug plan.

How can someone quickly see all the Medicare Advantage plans in their area?
Q1Medicare.com provides an online tool to help Medicare beneficiaries quickly view all of the Medicare Advantage plans available in their area. The Q1Medicare.com Medicare Advantage plan finder or MA-Finder is simple to use and only requires the user to enter a valid ZIP Code. Along with Medicare Advantage plan names, users will find basic plan features such as monthly premiums, drug cost-sharing per tier (if drug coverage is offered), quality ratings and maximum out of pocket costs exposure (or MOOP).

The Q1Medicare.com MA-Finder also allows users to refine their search to review just those Medicare health plans meeting their needs. Users can also print the details or email themselves the results of their search. The MA-Finder is available at no-cost to all Q1Medicare.com visitors.

What if a person misses the March 31 OEP deadline?
Unless a person is granted a Special Enrollment Period, the next chance most Medicare beneficiaries have to change their Medicare Advantage plan coverage will be the Annual Coordinated Election Period (AEP) starting on November 15, 2010, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2011.

About the Website Q1Medicare.com
Q1Medicare.com is one of the largest independent online resources for Medicare Part D prescription drug plan information. The Q1Medicare.com website was designed to help seniors, Medicare beneficiaries, advocates, and insurance agents navigate the Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage programs. Q1Medicare.com is operated by Q1Group LLC (Saint Augustine, FL).


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Lynnea Christner

Susan Johnson MS-MIS, MBA, PhD
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