For many people, fall can be an extremely busy time of year-the kids are getting settled into a new school year, the yard and the house need to be made ready for winter and, of course, we need to keep up with football on Sundays.
With everything that’s going on, it’s so easy to forget another activity that should be on everyone’s fall checklists: Helping parents prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment. Each year, there’s an opportunity to make changes to Medicare Advantage or Medicare prescription drug coverage for the following year. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which begins earlier this year on Saturday, Oct. 13, has been expanded to last seven weeks and will end on Dec. 7. This will give seniors and people with disabilities more time to compare and find the best plan that meets their unique needs. Open enrollment is seniors’ chance to review their Medicare choices and pick the plan that works for them, but if they decide that they’re happy sticking with the coverage they have now, they don’t need to do anything else.
If Medicare beneficiaries and their families need assistance in helping to choose a plan, or deciding to stay on a plan, they can utilize two great resources. The first is the Medicare Plan Finder, available at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
The second resource is an elder benefits specialist. Each county in Wisconsin has at least one of these specialists. These individuals can help Medicare beneficiaries learn what plans and what options are available to them. They cannot advise you on what plan to choose, but they will help you gather information to make a more informed decision about which plan is best for you. To make an appointment with a county elder benefits specialist, individuals may contact their county’s Commission on Aging and Disability Resource Center.
A full listing of Wisconsin’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers can be found online at: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/ltcare/adrc/customer/adrccontactlist.pdf.
Additionally, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the Part D “donut hole” coverage gap will continue to increase until 2020, when the donut hole will be closed. This year, people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 14 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole. In 2013, Medicare Part D’s coverage of brand name drugs will begin to increase, so people with Medicare will receive approximately 53 percent off the cost of brand name drugs, and coverage for 21 percent of the cost of generic drugs, in the donut hole.
Since the law was enacted, 5.4 million people with Medicare have saved more than $4.1 billion on prescription drugs in the donut hole. An estimated 37 million people with Medicare received a preventive benefit free of charge in 2011.
With more benefits, better choices and lower costs, the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and Know Your Care encourages people with Medicare and their families to begin reviewing drug and health plan coverage options for 2013.