Medicare open enrollment begins today
Published 10:45 am Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Today marks the beginning of this year’s open enrollment period for Medicare. That’s important news for many Americans who need to sign up for Medicare for the first time or change their health care plan for the coming year.
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But health insurance is anything but simple these days, and Medicare is no exception. Many people have questions or concerns about how to sign up for or change their Medicare plan. And because Medicare is such a large program — serving close to 60 million or almost one in five Americans — it’s also a big target for scammers.
The open enrollment period lasts from today, Oct. 15, through Dec. 7
“During this period, people on Medicare have the opportunity to make a change in their coverage,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has a comprehensive list of frequently asked Medicare questions available online (bit.ly/KFFmedicareFAQ). “If you are covered by Medicare, and you are interested in reviewing and comparing your Medicare options, make sure the plans you are considering during the Medicare open enrollment period are Medicare plans, not Marketplace plans. Medicare plans are not sold through the federal or state Marketplace websites.”
KFF recommends using the medicare.gov website or calling 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) to find a Medicare plan you like.
Medicare.gov and the FAQ from Kaiser also help explain when you become eligible for Medicare; the differences between Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D; and how much you might pay in premiums based on your income, among many other questions.
One big change coming next year for Medicare is the closing of the “donut hole” coverage gap in Part D, according to Kentucky Health News. That donut hole left many people with big bills once they had reached their initial coverage limit but before they reached a different “catastrophic” spending limit. Research has shown many people stop using their prescription medications when they hit the coverage gap, which can be risky or even fatal.
KHN also notes another coming change: “Some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans will offer nontraditional services, such as transportation to a doctor’s office, home safety improvements or services of nutritionists.”
People should be careful with their personal information when they’re doing anything with Medicare or any health insurance coverage. Scammers are out there and they will try to take advantage of you one way or another.
You can protect yourself by only using the government’s Medicare website, medicare.gov and trusted websites provided by a source you know. Medicare.gov also offers the following tips:
- guard your Medicare card like it’s a credit card;
- Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance;
- Medicare will never call you to sell you anything;
- never give out your Medicare number to someone calling and promising you something;
- Medicare will never visit you at your home; and
- Medicare can’t enroll you over the phone unless you called first.