By Kirk Larson, Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist
With more benefits, better choices and lower costs, the Social Security Administration is encouraging people with Medicare and their families to start reviewing drug and health plan coverage options for 2017. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period started October 15 and will end December 7. Finding the right plan to work with Medicare is very important. This will give seniors and people with disabilities time to compare and find the best plan that meets their unique needs.
As the largest public health program in the United States, Medicare includes four parts to keep you covered:
- Part A is insurance that covers inpatient hospital stays, outpatient care in nursing facilities, hospice, and home health care.
- Part B includes medical insurance for doctor’s services, medical supplies, outpatient care, and preventive services.
- Part C is a Medicare advantage plan that allows you to choose your health care coverage through a provider organization. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. This plan usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage and may include extra benefits and services at an additional cost.
- Part D is prescription drug coverage. There is a separate monthly premium for this plan; however, people with low resources and income may qualify for the Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs from Social Security. Visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp to see if you qualify.
Using Medicare’s Plan Finder – available at http://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan – can help you find the best plan in your area. You can also see if your current plan is highly rated or may have some issues. You have the option to complete a general or personalized plan search. A personalized search may provide you with more accurate cost estimates and coverage information.
If you need help finding the right plan, you can contact the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA). SHIBA is part of the Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s consumer protection services designed to help answer your health care questions. You can get free, unbiased assistance with Medicare health care choices using their website at http://www.insurance.wa.gov/shiba/index%20or%20call%20800-562-6900.
Each year there are changes to Medicare program and it is important to keep up and understand how the changes can benefit or cost you more money. Visit http://www.medicare.gov/ or http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ for more information.