Medicare News Article

Medicare open enrollment begins              Read ASCOG AAA Chief Comments ----->(click)
The Lawton Sunday Constitution, October 12, 2014.  BY KW HILLIS, STAFF WRITER KWHILLIS@SWOKNEWS.COM 
   Medicare’s annual open enrollment starts Wednesday and ends Dec. 7. Whether satisfied or not by your current health and drug plans, everyone should take time to review their coverage, said Bob Moos, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Southwest public affairs officer                                                                                                                                                                                
   “Open enrollment is the best time to make sure your health and drug plans still meet your individual needs, especially if you’ve had any changes in your health,” Moos said, explaining that even if a person is satisfied with their coverage, they “may benefit from reviewing all your options.”                                                                                                                                                                        
   The good news is that there is person-to-person help available for those with Medicare in Southwest Oklahoma, thanks to the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments or ASCOG.    
   For those who aren’t comfortable with computers, have questions about Medicare Advantage plans, supplemental (Medigap) plans or Part D drug plans, then open enrollment events have been scheduled in Comanche, Cotton Jackson, Jefferson, Tillman and Stephens counties, said Vonn Saltzman, ASCOG Medicare assistance specialist.                                                                                  
   It is important for anyone on Medicare to remember that they already have insurance and are not affected by the Health Insurance Marketplace or Exchange, Moos said. The Exchange, which will open this fall and   winter, is for Americans younger than 65 who don’t have health insurance and are shopping for themselves and families. The Marketplace Exchange is not for those on Medicare.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
   “Just as you’ve always done each fall, your attention should be focused on whether you’d like to make any changes in your Medicare health and drug plans,” he said, adding that Medicare’s website is     .  

 2015 costs      

   More good news is that the standard Medicare Part B 2015 costs — which cover healthcare providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventative care — will be the same as it was in 2014, with a $104.90 monthly premium and a $147 per year deductible, according to the Medicare website. Some people with a modified higher adjusted gross income, as reported on their IRS tax form two years ago, may pay more.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
   The Affordable Care Act has made it possible for the coverage gap or “donut hole” to shrink more in 2015. The gap begins when a drug plan registers $2,960 spent. While in the gap, a person will receive a 55 percent discount on brandname drugs and a 35 percent discount on generic drugs, Moos said.                                                                                                                                           
   Some people may qualify for extra help with drug coverage premiums, deductibles and co-payments, with the amount of help depending on income and resources, he said.                                     
   To learn more about whether you qualify for extra help, visit www.socialse  or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.                                                                            
   “By now insurers should  have notified you of any adjustments in your health or drug coverage or any changes in your out-ofpocket costs for next year,” Moos said. “The average monthly premiums for Medicare Advantage plans will increase by only $1.29 to $32.25, while the average monthly premiums for basic drug plans will inch up $1.32 to $32.”                                                   
   Medicare Advantage (a Medicare health plan) is an alternative for people who prefer to receive care through a private insurer rather than through Medicare’s original fee-forservice program, Moos said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
   “A Medicare supplement (Medigap) insurance, sold by private companies, can help pay some of the health care costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, like copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles,” according to the Medicare website. “A Medigap policy is different from a Medicare Advantage Plan. Those plans are ways to get Medicare benefits, while a Medigap policy only supplements your original Medicare benefits.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
   Medigap policies sold after 2006 do not include drug coverage. Individuals who only have original Medicare, have original Medicare with a Medigap policy, or just have an Advantage Plan without drug coverage, need to have a Part D Drug Coverage plan.                                                                                                                                                 “Oklahomans in Medicare’s original fee-for-service program can choose from 31 drug plans with monthly premiums ranging from $15.70 to $140.90 — about the same number of plans and premium range as last year,” Moos said. But premium cost is not the only criteria to check. "The only way to determine the true cost of your drug coverage is to consider other factors like deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance,” he said.

Decision time

   The first step is to gather together some information. Items needed include: A list of medications you take; a list of healthcare providers, including pharmacy and hospital that you want to use; any Annual Notice of Change received from your health or drug insurance provider, Social Security or Medicare about changes to your costs and coverage for next year; and, information about other plans in your area for next year, Saltzman said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
   Once the information is gathered, then there are quite a few options for shopping. A person can shop on the Medicare website at home, come in to talk to a counselor at one of the Medicare Assistance Program events in Southwest Oklahoma, call for assistance at 1-800-633-4227 or search through the “Medicare & You 2015 Handbook” that they received in the mail.                           
   Shopping Medicare’s website,  , for the best coverage for the best health or drug plan is make easier by clicking on “Find Health and Drug Plans” green button at the top of the first webpage. After entering your zip code and your the list of prescriptions, the “Medicare Plan Finder” tool can be used to compare coverage and outof-pocket costs for different plans.          
 “The quality of a health or drug plan’s customer service should be considered, too. To help you identify the best and worst, the Plan Finder provides star ratings for each plan. A gold star will show plans with the highest, five-star rating, while a warning icon will alert you to plans that have performed poorly for at least the past three years,” Moos said. Anyone who cannot make one of the scheduled Medicare Assistance Program events, can schedule a private meeting with a MAP counselor, Saltzman said.                                                                                                                        
   To schedule a private appointment, call Vonn Saltzman at (580) 736-7973 or (800) 658-1466.                                                                                                                                                  
                              Medicare Assistance Program (MAP) events
Comanche County: Where -- Wichita Mountains Area Senior Center, 6739 N. Wildhorse Road, Medicine Park
                                    When -- 9 am to 2 pm November 3 and December 4 
                                    CONTACT -- Tom Spears (580) 574-1942

  WHERE: Lawton Public Library conference room, 110 SW 4th, Lawton 
   WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 4; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 5 
   CONTACT: Sharon (580) 581-3450  WHERE: Rose Hill Healthfair multipurpose center, 11th Street and Washington Avenue, Lawton 
   WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 8 
   CONTACT: Glenda Stewart (580) 248-4417


Cotton County 
   WHERE: Walters Library board room, 202 N. Broadway, Walters 
   WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 23 
   CONTACT: Gina (580) 875-2006   WHERE: City Hall/Nutrition Center, 201 S. Commercial Street, Temple 
   WHEN: 9 a.m-2 p.m. Oct. 30 
   CONTACT: Charles Sparks, (580) 342-6497Jackson County
   WHERE: Southwest OK Community Action conference room, 101 E. Commerce, Altus 
   WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 28 
   CONTACT: Kelly Baker (580) 482-4141Jefferson County
   WHERE: Waurika City Hall Depot, 105 S. Meridian, Waurika 
   WHEN: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 22 
   CONTACT: Trina (580) 228-2714   WHERE: Ryan Drugstore, 520 Washington Street, Ryan 
   WHEN: 9:30-2 p.m. Nov. 11 
   CONTACT: Lanette, (580) 757-2230Stephens County
WHERE:Red River Technology Center, Jerry D. Morris Building, 3300 W. Bois D’Arc, Duncan 
WHEN: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct 17 and Oct. 20 
CONTACT: Lisa Williams, (580) 255-2903 extension 225  Tillman county
   WHERE: Frederick Community Action conference room, 105  S. Main, Frederick 
   WHEN: 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 
   CONTACT: Korie, (580) 335-5588   — Source: Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG)