Medicare open enrollment deadline approaching fast – things you should know!

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Many seniors are being forced to change this year due to about 13% of Medicare Advantage plans are being phased out. Studies show that year after year, 80% of enrollees have not changed, even when unhappy, but this year 3.5 million people do not have a choice. Change can be unsettling but there are many avenues of information that can help, here are a few:

1. Ask your doctor’s office if they’re equipped with staff educated in the recent changes. They have your medical history and some have put in place a “go to” specialist that can counsel you.
2.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website: http://www.medicare.gov/my-medicare-tools.asp They offer an online tool that will help narrow your options.
3. Many insurance companies are offering seminars that you can attend to educate on the different plan options.
4. Health advocates for your state – they provide Medicare counselors. To find someone in your area start by calling 202-737-6340, Washington based organization that works with health programs.

Here are just a few of the changes happening for 2011:

1. Out of pocket maximum will be added – capping at $6700 per year.
2. Preventative services will be covered at 100% and not subject to deductible.
3.  If you have one of the Advantage plan that’s being phased out and you don’t make any changes, your plan will automatically switch to the original Medicare program.

 Deadline for open enrollment are approaching fast, December 31, 2010 and this year there’s no grace period. In previous years seniors that changed and didn’t like their choice or failed to changed had a few months to switch into a similar plan – this year it’s much harder to change anything after the deadline.

Finally, experts agree…even if you make no changes, it’s a good practice to look at new options. Premiums have changed, drug benefits and your personal needs along with in and out of network providers have switched too. Don’t procrastinate; review now so you can enjoy the holidays later.

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