Medicare open enrollment begins Oct. 15 – Siuslaw News

It’s that time of year again for seniors interested in changing their Medicare coverage.

New enrollees can sign up for the program, and those already enrolled can change participation parameters from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2017.

Enrolled individuals can switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa. Participants can also switch from Medicare Advantage or from Medicare Part D to another plan. Once a new plan is selected, people will be disenrolled from their current plan.

A potential for major changes to the healthcare options available to seniors existed due to the uncertainty of the status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That uncertainty was significantly diminished as efforts to repeal and replace the ACA failed earlier this month.

Florence Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance Program (Shiba) representative Suzanne Mann-Heintz will be updating the community on changes in Medicare for the new year at the Wednesday, Oct. 4, meeting of the Florence Area Coalition. It will be a short presentation.

Mann-Heintz said she wants to remind community members that they should check their Medicare status prior to the open enrollment period.

“The most important thing is for people to review the new information about the plan. If, for example, a drug you have been taking may have been removed from the list of covered medications, you will be responsible for the full cost of the prescription,” she said.

In addition, there are some other changes to Medicare coverage that participants should be aware of now and moving into the new year.

One minor change is the removal of Social Security numbers from Medicare ID cards. New cards will be issued beginning in 2018, and these cards will have randomly generated ID numbers instead of Social Security numbers.

Another change is in the continued reduction of the so-called “donut hole” that forces prescription drug purchasers to pay for prescriptions after reaching the initial coverage limit of $3,750.

Congress’ goal moving forward is to eliminate the “hole” completely by 2020.

For 2018, enrollees will pay 35 percent of the cost of brand name drugs, down from 40 percent in 2017. For generic drugs, enrollees will now pay 44 percent of the cost, down from 51 percent.

One increase in costs to consumers taking effect is that the Medicare deduction will rise slightly from $400 to $405.

There are also changes in the income brackets for Part B enrollees with higher incomes.

The new brackets begin at $85,001 for a single individual and $170,001 for a couple. The highest bracket will apply to those with incomes of $241,000 for individuals and $428,000 for couples.

Most Medicare beneficiaries will receive their Annual Notice of Change and Evidence of Coverage from their existing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plan providers by today, Sept. 30.

Mann-Heintz said it is important to carefully review these updates, since they will cover any relevant changes to an individual’s coverage.

She also suggested setting up an individual Medicare account at Oregon.gov to track any changes in a person’s account or benefits, in order to respond to any issues that may arise during the year.

For more information on the 2018 changes to Medicare, visit the SHIBA web page at Oregon.gov.

 

 

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