Tennessee Gets Ready for Medicare Enrollment

October 11, 2012

With Medicare’s open enrollment period starting October 15, there are over 1.2 million Medicare Beneficiaries in Tennessee that may be impacted not only by the open enrollment period but by changes that are being made to their Medicare benefits.

People with Medicare will see some significant changes to the enrollment rules this fall. If they miss the opportunity to make adjustments to their plans during the open enrollment period, most people will have to wait to make changes until the next open enrollment period.

The following will change:

· Medicare’s Annual Coordinated Election Period (AEP) will take place October 15-December 7, 2012. Both Part D and Medicare Advantage plan members must make plan changes at this time.

· Medicare’s Annual Disenrollment Period (ADP) will take place from January 1-February 14, 2013. People with Medicare Advantage (MA) plans will only be able to return to Original Medicare and join a stand-alone prescription drug (Part D) plan. In the past it was possible to switch Medicare Advantage plans from January 1-March 31.

Also, due to recent changes in Medicare requirements and payments, insurers may opt to change plan benefits, provider networks, and cost.

Plans might respond to the upcoming shifts in Medicare by:

·Raising beneficiaries’ premiums and/or cost-sharing

·Reducing their network of providers

·Reducing extra benefits

·Making quality improvements to obtain bonuses

·Withdrawing from the marketplace entirely

Others may not make dramatic changes. Beneficiaries should always check their coverage carefully each year to ensure they are enrolled in a plan that will continue to meet their health needs and budget.

TN SHIP (State Health Insurance and Assistance Program) counselors will be available to assist people with assessing their Medicare coverage options during this enrollment season. Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to contact the local TN SHIP office as soon as possible to set up a counseling appointment. The number for beneficiaries to call is 1-877-801-0044.

The TN SHIP program receives grant funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide direct, local assistance to Medicare beneficiaries through one-on-one, counseling sessions (both in-person and over the phone), presentations, and public education programs. The national SHIP network includes over 1,300 local sponsoring organizations supporting over 12,000 counselors (mostly volunteers) and staff. Last year, SHIPs served over 2.5 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.

TN SHIP counselors can help Medicare beneficiaries:

Review current coverage
Check qualification for low-income programs
Compare plans with all available options
Search for specific plans online that meet specific prescription and medical needs
Give easy-to-understand answers to questions about Medicare
Help enroll in a plan online

Open enrollment this year lasts until December 7.

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