Medicare Open Enrollment begins today

Medicare Open Enrollment begins today
Seniors have more high quality choices for Medicare health and drug plans

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment, which begins today, October 15th and ends December 7th. CMS encourages people with Medicare to review their current health and prescription drug coverage options for 2015.

For 2015, steadily increasing quality of plans should give seniors confidence that they have an array of quality choices at competitive prices. Quality in Medicare Advantage and the Part D Prescription Drug Program continues to improve. About 60 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees are currently enrolled in plans with four or more stars for 2015, in contrast to an estimated 17 percent in 2009. And Medicare Advantage enrollment is projected to be at an all-time high in 2015 with more than 16 million beneficiaries.

CMS calculates star ratings from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best) based on quality and performance for Medicare health and drug plans to help beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers compare plans. CMS is allowing 5-star Medicare health and prescription drug plans to enroll beneficiaries at any time during the year.

"It's important that seniors should take this time to review their plans to make sure they are the best choice for their situation. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities are benefiting from improved quality in Medicare health and drug plans at competitive prices," said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. "With this improved quality, Medicare health and drug plan enrollees will receive improved care and coverage in a timely manner."

CMS announced last month that the average Medicare Advantage (MA) premium for 2015 is projected to be $33.90. Earlier this year, CMS estimated that the average basic Medicare prescription drug premium plan in 2015 was projected to be $32 per month. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, enrollment in Medicare Advantage will increase to 42 percent to an all-time high of over 16 million and Medicare Advantage premiums will have decreased by 6 percent. The law is also closing the Medicare Part D "donut" hole, with more than 8.3 million people saving over $12 billion on prescription drugs through July 2014.

Medicare plans coverage options and costs can change each year, and Medicare beneficiaries should evaluate their current coverage and choices, and select the plan that best meets their needs. If people with Medicare are satisfied with their current coverage and feel it will meet their needs for 2015, they to do not need to do anything.

For more information on Medicare Open Enrollment and to compare benefits and prices of 2015 Medicare health and drug plans, and view state-by-state fact sheets, please visit: www.cms.gov/Center/Special-Topic/Open-Enrollment-Center.html.

Resources for Medicare Beneficiaries

People with Medicare, their families, and caregivers can review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings, using many proven resources, including:

Visiting www.medicare.gov to see plan coverage and costs available in their area, and enroll in a new plan if they decide to make a change. Open Enrollment information is available in Spanish.

Calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for around-the-clock assistance to find out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Reviewing the 2015 Medicare & You handbook. It is accessible online at: www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf -- and it has been mailed to the homes of people with Medicare.

Getting one-on-one counseling assistance from the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact information can be found:
At www.medicare.gov/contacts/organization-search-criteria.aspx or;
On the back of the 2015 Medicare & You handbook or;
By calling Medicare (contact information above)

People with Medicare who have limited income and resources may qualify for Extra Help paying for their prescription drug costs. There is no cost or obligation to apply for Extra Help, also called the low-income subsidy. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, or caregivers can apply online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) to f