Campaign Features Major Outreach to Beneficiaries Eligible for Low Income Subsidies, Enhanced Publications and Online Tools
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that, beginning today, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to begin making enrollment changes in their health and prescription drug coverage for 2008, if necessary. The Medicare annual Open Enrollment Period for prescription drug plan runs from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, 2007.
In addition, for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans only, beneficiaries can make one change in enrollment -- enrolling in a new plan, changing plans or canceling a plan -- between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2008.
"Now is the time for beneficiaries to prepare and compare their health and prescription drug coverage options and choose the plan that best meets their needs," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "We intend to keep building on the success the program has achieved thus far. The most recent satisfaction rate stands at 86 percent; the estimated average premium is 40 percent lower than originally estimated and total estimated costs are running $188 billion below initial projections. Part D is a program that is working well and is helping Medicare beneficiaries with their prescription drug costs."
HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) encourages all beneficiaries to act soon to compare their current plan with other plan options. If they are satisfied with their current plan, they do not need to do anything in order to maintain coverage. CMS wants eligible beneficiaries who do not have prescription drug coverage to know that, if they wait, they may pay a penalty on their premium.
Beneficiaries are encouraged to review their prescriptions and other health needs when assessing the plan options described in the "Medicare & You" handbook or on www.medicare.gov. In addition, CMS recommends that beneficiaries gather any Medicare or Social Security mailings they received and materials made available by local counselors to use as a reference when speaking with a 1-800-Medicare representative or entering information on www.medicare.gov.
CMS also encourages people to take advantage of the enhanced online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder options available on www.medicare.gov. This feature offers information on available drug plans, including out-of-pocket costs and pharmacy networks. The enhanced online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder and Medicare Options Compare tools enable beneficiaries to compare drug plan options for prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans in their area. CMS continues to refine its educational tools, so beneficiaries will find it easier to locate information about available health and drug plans.
Starting today, www.medicare.gov also provides beneficiaries with the five-star ratings of the quality and performance of plans that offer Part C and Part D services. The plan ratings are intended to help people with Medicare choose an MA plan, a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan (MA-PDP), or a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) by combining cost and coverage information with quality and performance information. CMS also uses the plan ratings for oversight and monitoring purposes to ensure plan quality. Part C (Medicare Advantage) health plans are rated on criteria such as their providing timely information and care and managing chronic conditions. Part D (prescription drug plans) plans are rated on criteria such as customer service and providing drug pricing information.
The 2008 "Medicare & You" handbook, mailed to beneficiaries in October, includes tips on selecting a plan and an overview of plan options. Beneficiaries already enrolled in a Part D plan will also receive an Annual Notice of Change d