The Annual Medicare Enrollment period begins today and ends Dec. 7.
Beneficiaries may be qualifying for the first time or changing plans. Any changes made will be effective Jan. 1.
Medicare is the federally funded health insurance program for those 65 and older. It’s also available for people under 65 with certain disabilities and people of any age with end-stage kidney disease, according to the medicare.gov website.
Medicare health and prescription drug plans may vary each year, including benefits and premiums.
Local Medicare experts recommend that all seniors review their coverage each year, whether they’re satisfied with their plan or not, because health and financial needs may have changed, as well as plan benefits.
“Beneficiaries should also review their drug costs and plans,” said John B. Williams with Georgia Health Coverage in Newnan, which specializes in health-exchange coverage and group insurance and Medicare. “Coweta does have more limited plan options here than Atlanta, except Medicare supplements or Medigap plans. Generally, if they have an existing plan and don’t change it, their plan will roll over. Typically, the plans are really stable with Medicare, so there may be minimal changes.”
Medicare Parts A and B are referred to as “Original Medicare.” Medicare Part A primarily covers inpatient care in hospitals, short-term care in a skilled nursing facility and hospice care. It may also cover a limited amount of home health care costs.
Medicare Part A requires that patients pay a $1,316 deductible for each time they are hospitalized unless it’s for the same diagnosis within 60 days. There is no monthly premium for Medicare Part A if a beneficiary has worked at least 40 quarter hours, according to medicare.gov.
Medicare Part B covers outpatient services, such as doctor visits, lab work, X-rays and emergency room care.
This year, most people who signed up for Medicare Part B are charged a monthly premium of $134, which is deducted out of their Social Security checks. The copay is 20 percent of the visit cost based on “reasonable and customary” rates set by Medicare. Medicare covers the remaining 80 percent. The annual deductible is $183.
Beneficiaries with higher incomes may pay higher Medicare premiums.
Some seniors may consider signing up from several different Medicare supplemental plans available through private insurers that cover some costs the original Medicare plans won’t, such as copays and deductibles and even travel outside the United States.
Medicare recipients with limited incomes may also be eligible for extra assistance with Medicare prescription drug plan costs.
Beneficiaries will be mailed new Medicare cards with new Medicare ID numbers beginning in 2018. Cards currently contain the beneficiary's social security number. The cards are free and will arrive automatically.
For more information on plans, benefits and Medicare options, visit www.medicare.gov