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Medicare health or prescription drug plan, Open Enrollment runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7

LEGAL AID OF THE BLUEGRASS

News release 

Routines help keep us focused, organized and even healthy. However, if your health routine does not include preparing for Medicare’s Open Enrollment, now’s the time to kick start a new healthy habit. 

If you have a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, Open Enrollment runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 and is the time you can make changes to your plan. Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you might find something that’s a better fit for your budget or your health needs. If you miss an Open Enrollment deadline, you’ll most likely have to wait a full year before you can make changes to your plan. 

Here are five important things every Medicare beneficiary can do to get in the Medicare Open Enrollment routine. 

1. Review your plan notice. Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network. 

2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Is your new medication covered by your current plan? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change. 

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare. Learn about programs to help with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and copayments and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. You can do this by visiting Medicare.gov or making an appointment with a local SHIP counselor by calling 1-866-516-3051. 

4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget. Starting in October, you can use Medicare’s plan finder tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan to see what other plans are offered in your area. A new plan may: 

a. Cost less 

b. Cover your drugs 

c. Let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy 

5. Check your plan’s star rating before you enroll. The Medicare Plan Finder has been updated with the 2016 Star Ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a 1 to 5 star scale, with 1 star representing poor performance and 5 stars representing excellent performance. Use the Star Ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered. 

These are a few easy ways to get a jump start on your Medicare Open Enrollment. For more information, call a SHIP benefits counselor. SHIP counselors provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance. Get free personalized health insurance counseling by calling 1-866-516-3051. 

Legal Aid of the Bluegrass’s SHIP program helps seniors make informed decisions on programs that affect their quality of life in the following Kentucky counties: Anderson, Boone, Bourbon, Boyd, Boyle, Campbell, Carroll, Carter, Clark, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Garrard, Grant, Greenup, Harrison, Jessamine, Kenton, Lawrence, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Nicholas, Owen, Pendleton, Powell, Scott and Woodford. Visit http://www.lablaw.org/ship-program for more information.