Dec. 7: Medicare open enrollment deadline

Oct. 13, 2012 at 11:04 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- AARP officials say all U.S. adults age 65 and older have until Dec. 7 to consider changing their prescription drug or Medicare advantage plan.

Nicole Duritz, a vice president at AARP, said those on Medicare can choose to stay with traditional Medicare or change to a Medicare advantage plan -- in the past known as Medicare+Choice or Medicare Part C -- or private health insurance paid for by the government.

The private plans are required to offer a benefit "package" at least as good as traditional Medicare. Some might require higher out-of-pocket costs than Medicare for some benefits such as nursing home care, but have lower co-payments for doctor visits. A private plan may use some money from the government for each enrollee to offer supplemental benefits such as hearing coverage, vision coverage, gym memberships and other services not covered by traditional Medicare.

Most Medicare Advantage use HMOs and other managed care plans, but there has been increasing enrollment private fee-for-service plans, a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found. However, as with traditional Medicare, private plan members can incur high out-of-pocket costs.

"Your health and medication needs can change from year to year and health plans may also change their benefits and costs. That's why it's important to evaluate your Medicare choices during open enrollment," Duritz said in a statement. "A good first step is learning more about the available plans and how they can best meet your current and future health needs."

People with Medicare can research the prescription drug and health plans available by using the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

After reviewing available plans, AARP recommends considering the following when making decisions to change coverage:

-- Costs, including the monthly premium, the annual deductible and cost-sharing.

-- Coverage for the doctors and pharmacies included in the plan and the prescription drugs and other services needed.

-- Quality Ratings are provided for most Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

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