As the December 7th deadline grows closer for people with Medicare to change or choose their drug and health plan coverage for next year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and its network of partners and advocates are available to assist with counseling and enrolling beneficiaries on their choices for 2012. With just weeks remaining in the Annual Enrollment Period, Medicare's popular consumer resources – www.medicare.gov and 1-800-MEDICARE – are assisting beneficiaries, their families, partners and trusted representatives.
"Seniors and people with Medicare should act now, review their plan coverage and compare their current plan with other available options," said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick, M.D. "The important decisions you make now can help ensure that any changes made will be in place by January 2012 for seamless and uninterrupted access to your healthcare providers and medications at your chosen pharmacies."
CMS recently mailed Medicare & You handbooks and postcards to more than 42 million households reminding them of the December 7th deadline. This year, as beneficiaries look over their available plan options, they will see better value in the Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug (Part D) plan benefits. Medicare Advantage enrollees are now assured of the same access as other Medicare beneficiaries to certain Medicare-covered preventive services at zero cost-sharing, including an Annual Wellness Visit. On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be four percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans expect enrollment to increase by 10 percent.
Beneficiaries with Part D coverage who are in the coverage gap, or "donut hole," will continue to receive 50 percent discounts on covered brand name drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Beneficiaries have seen an average savings of $581 on covered brand name drugs, and an additional $22 in savings on generic drugs – yet another reason to compare and choose the drug plan that best fits a patient's needs. Average premiums for Part D prescription drug plans will also decrease to $30 in 2012, about 76 cents less compared to the average 2011 premium. The premium amount is based on bids submitted by Part D plans for the 2012 plan year. Benefits in 2012 remain consistent with those offered in 2011.
"Before the December 7th deadline, we urge all people with Medicare to focus on Open Enrollment and compare costs, coverage and their satisfaction with their current coverage with options for 2012," Berwick said. "Once you compare plans, if your current plan satisfies your needs for next year, you don't need to do anything. If other options are a better match for your needs, there is still time to change."
Medicare's Open Enrollment season continues to generate high levels of activity on 1-800-MEDICARE with our unbiased customer service agents, and our popular web-based resource: www.medicare.gov. People with Medicare and their trusted representatives have used the web-resources from their homes or at counseling events around the country. Nationally, enrollment opportunities are available:
· Online: Since the beginning of Open Enrollment (October 15) , online activities have surpassed 26 million page views across the Medicare Plan Finder web tool and open enrollment sections of www.Medicare.gov.
· On the phone: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) continues to be an important 24/7 resource for personalized assistance during Open Enrollment. More than 3.4 million calls have been handled and wait times continue to fall within acceptable customer service thresholds.
· Face-to-face: At Open Enrollment events across the country, Medicare has been working closely with its partners across the nation to provide counseling opportunities for people with Medicare in their home communities. More than a thousand events with Medicare beneficiaries have been held across the country – and thousands of SHIP counseling sessions have been conducted. CMS and its partners have shared unbiased drug and health plan information at senior activity centers, through education-oriented media partnerships and phone banks and with other advocacy partners in unique local venues and faith-based communities. These events also highlight Medicare's preventive services, including flu and pneumococcal shots and health screenings. For more information contact your local Area Agency on Aging, State Health Insurance Program or other unbiased senior advocacy organizations. Contact information for local telephone or face-to-face enrollment resources and year-round assistance can be found on the back pages of your Medicare & You handbook.
Department of Human Services