December 10, 2008

ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR MEDICARE PARTS C AND D

By Senator Mike Crapo

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons are busy times of the year for many people-we are pulled in many directions fulfilling commitments to family, friends and work. Still there are a few things on the to-do list that should take priority even in this busy time of the year. If it applies to you or an aging or disabled family member, and if you have not already done so, you should set aside some time to evaluate your Medicare Advantage plan and/or Medicare prescription drug coverage to make sure that you have the best plan for your medical needs or the needs of your loved one. Americans who start collecting Social Security at age 65 are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. However, some Americans choose to enroll in Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D, the Medicare prescription drug plans. The primary general annual enrollment period for these two programs ends on December 31.

Medicare Parts C and D have a number of different enrollment periods. You can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan when you first become eligible (three months before to three months after your 65th birthday) and between November 15 and December 31 each year. If your Medicare Part C or that of a loved one is disability-related, the first enrollment opportunity is three months before to three months after your 25th month of disability. You can join, switch or drop a Medicare drug plan when you are first eligible for Medicare, as outlined above, and you can join, switch or drop between November 15 and December 31 of each year. When you enroll in Medicare Advantage or a Medicare prescription drug plan between November 15 and December 31, your coverage begins the following January 1. It is important to note that, if you already have prescription drug coverage (again, Medicare Part D), you can also join or switch to a plan with prescription drug coverage between January 1 and March 31 of each year. But you cannot drop a plan with prescription drug coverage or join, switch or drop a Medicare Medical Savings Account during that time. If at all possible, it is best to review and make changes during the current end-of-year enrollment period.

In most cases, you will remain enrolled for the calendar year, starting the date your coverage begins. And, there are exceptions to the rules on the enrollment period in certain circumstances. For example, you may be able to join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage Plan or a prescription drug plan if you move out of your plan's service area, live in an institution, qualify for "extra help" under Medicare rules, or, in the case of the prescription drug plan, lose other credible prescription drug coverage. There are other situations that could make an enrollee eligible to change plans. It is best to contact the Idaho Department of Insurance for assistance and additional information. You can link to the website and gain other information by visiting my website at http://crapo.senate.gov.

Take some time this season to give yourself or a loved one the gift of a health care plan that best suits your needs or the needs of an aging or disabled family member or friend.

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