Five Questions: Making plans
Q: What is the enrollment period for those interested in a Medicare Part D drug coverage plan?
A: The open enrollment period is Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. In some areas of the state there are plans that are no longer contracting with the federal Medicare agency, so Medicare beneficiaries currently enrolled in these plans will have to choose another health or prescription drug plan.
Q: What has changed for 2010?
A: The changes make the plans stronger and less confusing for Medicare beneficiaries. We have taken steps to make sure plans do not discriminate against the sickest beneficiaries. Medicare also eliminated duplicative plan offerings. About 7 percent of beneficiaries will need to change to a new plan.
Q: Were beneficiaries sent information about the changes?
A: All those whose plans aren’t renewing will be mailed notices to let them know they’ll need to pick a new plan. They have until Dec. 31 to pick a new plan, but they should choose a new plan earlier than that to ensure there is no lapse in coverage. A 2010 “Medicare and You” handbook was mailed to every Medicare household detailing available plans.
Q: Where can people go to get help to find the right plan for them?
A: They can go to the Medicare.gov Web site to compare prescription drug plans. They can perform a personalized search of plans by entering information about where they live, the drugs they take, where they like to go to the pharmacy, etc. The plan finder takes all that information into account and basically takes all the work out of plan comparison.
Q: What about those who don’t have Internet access?
A: Customer service representatives are available at the helpline (1-800-MEDICARE) 24 hours a day. Before calling, people should gather their Medicare card, know their ZIP codes and have their pill bottles ready so they can discuss their dosages. There’s also the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas program, which is free and can be reached at 1-800-860-5260.