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Medicare Open Enrollment: Now is the Time to Review your Medicare Plan

Medicare open enrollment starts early this year and at AARP, we want to make sure Mainers have the tools they need to make good choices. Open enrollment began on Oct. 15, and ends on Dec. 7, 2012. Any changes you make will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

See Also: 12 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Medicare Plan

Medicare open enrollment is the only time of the year when the almost 270,000 Medicare recipients in Maine can review and make changes to their Medicare coverage.

In brief, during open enrollment you can:

  • Switch to a Medicare Advantage plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare
  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug plan, change to a new one or drop your coverage

Comparing Medicare plans is a relatively simple process, but having a friend or family member review the materials with you may be helpful. The official Medicare website has a tool at that helps you find and compare all of the plans available in your area. This is a great way to get started and at least gives you the overview of what your choices will be. When reviewing the plans, focus on the actual benefits they provide. For example, if you take prescription drugs, you might want to pay particular attention to the coverage offered while you are in the prescription drug coverage gap or “doughnut hole.”

If you need help comparing coverage options, you can work with your local Area Agency on Aging for assistance and information.

Remember: The open enrollment dates are strict! Oct. 15 – Dec. 7 is your only window of opportunity until 2013.

As mentioned above, 270,000 Maine residents rely on Medicare, and this is the federal program that helps people age 65 and older, as well as some younger persons with disabilities, pay for health care. The program has several components:

  • Original Medicare helps pay for hospital bills (Part A) and doctor bills (Part B). Because it does not cover all costs, many people also buy Medigap supplemental insurance, sold by private companies. (Medigap is not part of Medicare’s annual open enrollment.)
  • Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) are an alternative to Original Medicare. They are private health plans, approved by Medicare, like HMOs or PPOs that feature co-payments for services, but also often operate with limited networks of doctors, specialists and hospitals.
  • Medicare Part D helps pay for prescription drugs. Plans are administered by private companies, approved by Medicare, and include: stand-alone plans that may be added to Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage, and plans that are part of Medicare Advantage.

For more on Medicare, go to www.medicare.gov.

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