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Medicare Open Enrollment Is Here. 5 Steps to Prepare Now

October 19, 2021

October marks the start of Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, where more than 63 million Americans who receive benefits through the federal health insurance program can make changes to their coverage.1 Any changes made during open enrollment are effective January 1, 2022. In addition, eligible new enrollees, who missed their 2021 enrollment period and didn’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, can enroll between October 7 and December 15.2

Whether you or a loved one are enrolling for the first time or making changes to next year’s coverage, navigating the Medicare maze can be complicated. Before making important decisions that could impact your health and your wallet for years to come, Medicare encourages new and existing members to take the following steps to learn what’s new and where to get help if you need it.
1. Watch for important notices. If you’re currently enrolled in a Medicare plan, you should have already received an Annual Notice of Changes (ANOC) in the mail. The ANOC includes any changes in coverage and costs, effective in January 2022.
2. Review the “Medicare & You 2022” handbook, which contains information about plans and coverage options in your area. Carefully review your current Medicare coverage, and note any upcoming changes to your costs or benefits, including coverage for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, testing, and more. Medicare also offers plan information in multiple languages.
3. Consider your 2022 coverage needs. Decide if your current coverage will meet your needs for the year ahead. If you like your current coverage, and it’s still available for 2022, you don’t need to take any action to keep it.
4. Preview and compare plans. Medicare provides an online tool, making it easy to compare coverage options and shop for health and prescription drug plans. Log in or create an account at Medicare.gov to access a list of your prescription medications and compare plans and prices.
5. Get personalized help. Visit Medicare.gov to access general information about Medicare plans, costs, eligibility, and more. You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get help from health insurance counselors in your area by phone. Importantly, the budget reconciliation bill being debated in Congress includes a proposed expansion of Medicare benefits to include dental, vision and hearing services, which are not currently covered under Medicare, as well as changes impacting prescription drug plans and pricing. If you’re currently enrolled in Medicare or will be eligible to enroll in 2022, you will want to watch for any developments in the weeks and months ahead. If you have questions about planning for your healthcare costs in retirement, contact the office to schedule time to talk.

1 http://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-systems/cms-fast-facts/cms-fast-factsmobile-site
2 http://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/joining-a-health-or-drug-plan

5 Rules of Thumb to Help Protect Yourself and Loved Ones From Medicare Scams

It’s no coincidence that Medicare-related scams increase as the annual fall open enrollment period begins each October. Current Medicare beneficiaries, as well as those who will be eligible in the following calendar year, are inundated with information and advertisements from television commercials to social media ads, and information arriving through the mail. That can make it hard to determine what’s legitimate and what’s not. For example, did you know that unsolicited phone calls from Medicare providers are prohibited?

Insurance companies that are approved to offer Medicare health and prescription drug plans, such as Medicare Advantage or “Medi-gap” plan providers, may send brochures or other marketing materials to you through the mail. However, they are not allowed to call you or come to your home without an invitation from you. If you receive unsolicited calls from parties identifying themselves as Medicare providers, assume it’s a scam and hang up.

One of the fastest-growing scams in 2021 involves a robocall from “Becky, a Medicare advocate,” offering “precautionary genetic cancer screening.”The caller states that if you don’t act soon, Medicare may label you as ineligible for coverage. It’s important to know that Medicare will never call you to sell or promote any type of services or coverage. Another popular scam involves fake invoices sent through the mail from an unknown hospital, doctor, or medical provider.

The scammers bank on people paying these bills without checking into them first. To avoid this scam, save all medical receipts and statements and keep track of your quarterly Medicare Summary Notices. These notices list any services you received during the previous three months. When in doubt, contact the healthcare provider’s billing department to make sure the charges are valid. If you suspect fraud, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Below are five rules of thumb to help protect yourself and loved ones from these and other Medicare-related scams.
1. Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare identification number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
2. Medicare will never call you to sell you anything.
3. You may get calls from people promising you things if you give them a Medicare number. Don’t do it.
4. Medicare will never visit you at your home.
5. Medicare can’t enroll you over the phone unless you called first. To learn more about avoiding Medicare scams and steps you can take to protect yourself or report suspected fraud, visit CMS.gov.

1 http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2021/new-medicare-robocall.html

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