ALTON - Medicare Open Enrollment is upon us. You may have some decisions you need to make, and the Medicare volunteer counselors in the OASIS-SHIP office at Alton Memorial Hospital can help. But first, here are some reminders about what you can change and what’s new in Medicare.

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Open Enrollment for 2017 Medicare coverage is from now until December 7. During this annual enrollment period you can make changes to the following:

  • You can switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage, or vice versa.
  • You can also switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
  • And if you didn’t enroll in a Medicare Part D plan when you were first eligible, you can do so during the general open enrollment, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.

If you want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must meet some basic criteria.

  • You must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B.
  • You must live in the plan’s service area.
  • You cannot have end-stage renal disease (some exceptions apply).

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If you’re already enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan or a Medicare Advantage plan and you don’t want to make changes to your coverage for 2017, you don’t need to do anything during open enrollment. This assumes your current plan will still be available in 2017. If your plan is being discontinued and isn’t eligible for renewal, you will receive a non-renewal notice from your carrier prior to open enrollment. If you don’t, it means you can keep your plan without doing anything during open enrollment.

But be aware that your benefits and premium could be changing for 2017. It’s important that you’ve double checked to make sure that your current plan is still the best available option.

Changes to be aware of for 2017 include:

  • Medicare recipients reaching the donut hole will benefit from better prescription drug discounts. The gap in prescription drug coverage starts when someone reaches the initial coverage limit ($3,700 in 2017), and ends when they have spent $4,950. In 2017, while in the donut hole, enrollees will pay 40 percent of the cost of brand name drugs and 51 percent of the cost of generic drugs. The Medicare Part D deductible will be $400 in 2017.
  • Medicare Part B premiums will increase for those who didn’t see an increase in 2016. For 2017, there’s expected to be a cost-of-living increase for Social Security, so the $121.80/month Medicare Part B is expected to apply to all enrollees, with higher premiums for high income enrollees.
  • Medicare Advantage plans continue to see changes. Most people will continue to have dozens of Medicare Advantage plans as well as Part D plans available to them. However, these providers can change the coverage options they offer from year to year so it’s important to stay up-to-date. It’s important to carefully review the information sent to you by your plan provider, since this will cover any possible changes.

Alton Memorial Hospital and OASIS sponsor the Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) office. This free and confidential service is available to any senior or person with disabilities who has questions or problems with Medicare. Call 1-800-392-0936 to schedule a one-on-one appointment with a SHIP certified counselor.

Read More:

Oct 13, 2016 | IDoA announces start of Medicare open enrollment period Oct 13, 2016

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