The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

November 4, 2013

The Color of Money: Check out Medicare changes

With so much fuss and frustration over the open enrollment for the health care marketplaces, some people might be missing important information about another open-enrollment season.

     Open enrollment for the exchanges is overlapping and overshadowing the importance of the Medicare open-enrollment period, which started Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. It is during this period that those covered by Medicare can change their health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014.

     Although the Medicare open enrollment process runs smoothly, it is still a complicated system with its alphabet plans -- Part A is hospital insurance, Part B is medical insurance, Part C is Medicare Advantage, (offered by private companies approved by Medicare such as an HMO), and Part D is prescription drug coverage -- that require recipients to pay close attention to the rules and exceptions.

     "What's really important is if you are happy with your coverage, you don't have to change," said Frederic Riccardi, director of client services at the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit organization based in New York. "But plans can change cost and benefits every year."

     By now you should have received your "Annual Notice of Change," which lists the changes in your plan, such as the premium and copays. It's so important that you review the document.

     The notice will compare the benefits in 2014 with those you've received this year. In addition to your health care choices, pay particular attention to your prescription drug plan and the list of covered medications. Insurers change the drugs they cover, their procedures, their rates and sometimes their networks of doctors and hospitals.

     But don't just focus on prices. Balance affordability with coverage, Riccardi says. Make sure the medications you need are still covered. Check to see if under your plan you need prior authorization, or there are quality limits or set therapy, which means requiring a different drug before the plan will cover the one prescribed.

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