The open enrollment period for choosing a Medicare supplement insurance or Medicare Advantage Plan begins today and ends Dec. 7. The choices you make during this period will go into effect on Jan. 1. This enrollment period for those on Medicare is second in importance only to having initially enrolled in Medicare.
Medicare & You Handbook 2013
If you have not received your Medicare & You 2013 handbook, you have options available to obtain this important information: You can visit Medicare.gov where the handbook is available to read, but it doesn't have the health and prescription drug plans specific for your area, you can order the print handbook to be delivered to your home, or you can download an e-reader version at Medicare.gov/publications .
Medigap Insurance or Medicare Advantage Plan?
A person cannot have both a Medicare Advantage Plan and Medigap insurance. You must choose which of these two options suits your needs and finances the best.
Supplemental health insurance to help cover the 20 percent of costs that Medicare itself generally doesn't cover is referred to as Medigap insurance. Medigap insurance plans are sold by private insurers. You must have Medicare parts A and B to qualify for Medigap insurance.
Medigap insurance , as the name suggests, fills in the gaps that original Medicare leaves behind such as co-pays and deductibles. Some Medigap policies go beyond covering services only also covered by Medicare. You'll pay a monthly premium for Medigap insurance, in addition to your Medicare Part B monthly payment. With a Medigap insurance plan, if you want prescription drug coverage, you'll need to also enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, Part D of Medicare.
A Medicare Advantage Plan , which is usually an HMO or PPO, gives private insurers who have been approved by Medicare governance over your Medicare Part A and Part B coverages. A Medicare Advantage Plan is sometimes referred to as Part C.
Unlike a Medigap policy, where you have to enroll in and pay separately for prescription drug coverage, a Medicare Advantage Plan has only one monthly payment in addition to your Part B premium. You'll still need to be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to qualify for an Advantage Plan.
Another difference of an Advantage Plan is that if you choose a plan that is an HMO, you will need to seek services through a predetermined network of providers. With a Medigap policy, you can choose any providers that accept Medicare. Some Advantage Plans are PPOs, meaning you'll pay less to receive services through their network of providers, but you can choose to seek service elsewhere at a higher co-payment yourself.
Useful Resources for Finding Information
Medicare.gov, the main site for information about Medicare and its programs, is a searchable database to find answers to various types of questions. You may call 1-800-Medicare, 1-800-633-4227, and ask for "Agent" to obtain personalized assistance. This portion of the Medicare site allows you to input your zip code to find the plans available in your area.
Each state has a State Health Insurance Assistance Program , SHIP, where you can receive free, personalized assistance.
Baby boomers, seniors and those on Social Security disability who are enrolled in Medicare should get an early start during this open enrollment period to avoid missing the opportunity to obtain important health insurance coverage.