5 Reasons to Review Your Medicare Coverage Now

Medicare - 2 days leftSaturday, December 7, 2013, is the last day of Medicare Open Enrollment for 2014 coverage. If you don’t act now, it may be next year before you can make changes to your coverage, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Next year’s Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15 – December 7, 2014.

The materials you received from your plan before Medicare Open Enrollment began are very important. The Annual Notice of Change or Evidence of Coverage explains any changes to your current coverage, premiums or other out-of-pocket costs for 2014.

Review this information carefully so you understand how any changes may affect you. Then you can decide if you may need to make a change.

Here are five things to consider when deciding if it’s time for you to change your Medicare coverage:

1. Have you received a new diagnosis or been given a new prescription? Changes in your health may mean you require more or different health care services. Make sure you understand what your current plan will cover and how much you will have to pay.

2. Is your doctor still in your plan’s network? Plans can change their network provider lists from year to year. If your doctor is no longer in your plan network, you may want to change doctors or choose a different plan.

3. Does your plan still cover the medications you take? Plan drug formularies are reviewed annually and may change.

4. Is your pharmacy still in the plan’s network? Just like provider networks, plans can change their pharmacy networks, too.

5. Has your financial situation changed? You’ll want to make sure you are still comfortable with your plan’s cost-sharing terms.

There is no one-size-fits-all type of Medicare coverage. Everyone has different health and budget needs, and these may change over time.

Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period for 2013: What You Need to Know

medicare open enrollmentThe Medicare Open Enrollment Period for 2013 is coming up soon! For a quick rundown on what you need to know, take a look at this basic Q&A.

What is it?
Throughout the year, Medicare has different enrollment periods. The Open Enrollment Period, or OEP, is the time-frame during which Medicare beneficiaries (people with Medicare) can make changes to their Medicare plans.

What’s in a name?
In past years, you may have heard the Open Enrollment Period referred to as the “Annual Enrollment Period,” or even the “Annual Election Period.” Both of those (and the acronym that went with them, “AEP”) are older names for what officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are now calling Open Enrollment Period.
When is it?
OEP comes in the fall. As in 2011, this year’s OEP will take place October 15 through December 7, 2012. Any changes you make to your Medicare plan during this period go into effect on January 1, 2013.

What changes can you make?

During OEP, you can…

  • Switch from Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. This might involve switching from a plan without Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage to one that has it, or vice-versa.
  • Make changes to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan:
  • Join a Part D plan.
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another one.

Drop your Part D plan altogether.

Note: Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are an exception. You can join one at any time during the year, not just during OEP.

Why is OEP so im portant?
Once the Medicare Open Enrollment Period closes on December 7, you can’t make any changes to your Medicare plan until the following year. There are some exceptions, such as if you move out of the area served by your plan. But for most people on Medicare, the OEP is the only time when you can make a change.

Do you have to make a change during OEP?
Absolutely not! If the Medicare coverage you have now is working for you, and your plan(s) is offered for 2013, then you can keep your coverage as it is. However, because this time comes but once a year, it’s a good idea to evaluate your coverage during Open Enrollment Period every year. That way, you’ll know if you already have the best coverage options for you, or if you need to make some changes.

If you have more questions regarding Medicare Open Enrollment please feel free to call our offices at (909)792-3300

 

 

Try to Avoid Medicare Late Enrollment Premium Penalties

discountsKnowing your Initial Enrollment Period deadline and the different Medicare parts before you’re eligible for Medicare may help you to enroll on time and avoid paying penalties on top of your monthly Medicare premium payments. It’s also important to know about different enrollment periods to help avoid a lapse in coverage.

When you become eligible for Medicare, you will need to sign up for Part A, Part B and Part D during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. For example, if you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65, you can sign up 3 months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and 3 months after you turn 65.

If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) when you were first eligible, you can sign up between January 1–March 31 each year. Your coverage will begin July 1. You may have to pay a higher Part A and/or Part B premium for late enrollment.

However, some people who meet certain requirements may not have to pay a penalty even if they did not sign up when first eligible.

Part A Enrollment Penalties

Most people are eligible for Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D at age 65. Coverage for Part A is usually available without having to pay a monthly premium as long as you or your spouse worked and paid taxes for ten years. If you aren’t eligible for premium-free Part A, then it’s especially important to sign up during your initial enrollment period to avoid a possible 10% penalty on top of your monthly premium. You would have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you were eligible for Part A, but didn’t sign up for it.

Part B Enrollment Penalties

Part B charges a monthly premium. The amount that you pay is based on your income and tax-filing status. You will need to sign up when you are first eligible to avoid an additional 10% of your Part B premium for every 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it. Usually, you will have to pay the monthly penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. You can delay enrollment in Part B without penalty if you quality for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Find out how much you may have to pay if you miss your enrollment deadline with this Part B penalty calculator.

Part D Enrollment Penalties

One way to avoid having to pay Part D penalties is to sign up for a Part D drug plan as soon as you become eligible. Or, you can delay enrolling in Medicare Part D without penalty, but only if you have had other prescription drug coverage at least as good as Medicare. This is known as creditable coverage If it’s been more than 63 days since you’ve had creditable coverage, then the penalty may apply. For each month you delay, you may have to pay an additional 1% of the average premium per month. You will pay that penalty for as long as you’re enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.

Learning about timely enrollment in Medicare could save you a lot of money later.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

Sincerely,  George
California License #0B56846
(909) 792-3300

Applying for Medicare in the 21st Century – Medicare, Redlands, Riverside, Palm Springs

Wow have times changed! Finding information for just about anything is just a click away. Watch this video by Star Trek’s Sulu (George Takei) and with him is Patty Duke. I know most of you remember one or both of them.

Have a wonderful day! And as always if you ever have any questions I am just a phone call away!

George Litchfield
Medicare Plan Specialist
Lic#OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

Call me today at 888-891-5557

 

medicare apply onlineBack in the day, the only way to apply for Medicare was to talk with a Social Security representative—in person or by phone. You can still do that, and you can complete an application with pen and paper if you choose.

Today’s technology, once the stuff of science fiction, offers another option. Social Security, Medicare and Star Trek’s Sulu (George Takei) are inviting you to “boldly go online.” Patty Duke, that former TV sprite with the look-alike cousin, has also joined the effort. Hard to imagine? Watch the video.

Note that if you are already receiving Social Security benefits, you don’t have to apply for Medicare. You will be enrolled in Medicare automatically when you become eligible.

How Does It Work?

Completing an online Medicare application takes just minutes, and you can do it from the comfort of your home or any computer. Just go to SocialSecurity.gov and select “Apply for Medicare Only.” Then follow the onscreen directions.

You’ll need to supply basic information such as birth date, etc. You’ll also answer some questions about your current health care coverage. The system will guide you through the process based on your answers.

You can start the application and save it to complete later if you need to. You’ll get an application number that you can use to access your saved information. This same number allows you to check on the status of your submitted application. The site is secure. Your privacy and personal information are protected.

You will see a receipt on the screen after submitting your application. Be sure to save it or print it out. Medicare will review your application and send you a letter with its decision.

Who Can Do It?

You can sign up for Medicare even if you’re not ready to retire. You need to meet these requirements:

  • You are within three months of turning age 65 or older.
  • You want to sign up for Medicare benefits and do not currently have any Medicare coverage.
  • You do not want to apply for monthly Social Security retirement benefits at this time.

A family member or caregiver can complete a loved one’s online Medicare application, but the beneficiary must agree to the Electronic Signature and Submission Agreement in the final step.

When is it Available?

The online application is available seven days a week during the following hours (Eastern time):

  • Monday-Friday: 5 a.m. until 1 a.m.
  • Saturday: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
  • Holidays: 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.

 

–This information is provided by Medicare Made Clear

GeorgelitchfieldGeorgeLitchfield.com – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (888)891-5557 or go to our website GeorgeLitchfield.com  and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket.

 

OEP Is Over: What to Do if You Missed It

Hello!

OEP for 2013 has ended. What happens if you didn’t do anything? And what can you do now? Read below to find out more information or feel free to call me and I can answer any of your questions.

Have a great day!

George Litchfield
Medicare Plan Specialist
Lic#OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

Call me today at 888-891-5557

 

The Medicare OEP, or Open Enrollment Period, runs from October 15 through December 7 each year. (It’s sometimes also referred to as the “AEP,” or “Annual Enrollment Period.”) During this time, you can take a look at changes to your current plan for the coming year, and see whether there are other choices that might better meet your coverage needs.

OEP for 2013 has ended. What happens if you didn’t do anything? And what can you do now?

If you already have Medicare coverage, then usually doing nothing means that you’ll be enrolled in the same Medicare plan or plans in 2013 that you were a member of in 2012.

Note: Though you may be enrolled in the same plan, those plan benefits may be changing in 2013. You have both print and online resources that lay out those plans for you. For more information, see the Medicare Made Clear blog post “Learning About 2013 Changes to Your Medicare Plan.”

If you want to change your Medicare coverage, there are a few other possibilities which might apply to you and your situation.

Special Enrollment Period (SEP): Under certain circumstances, you can change your Medicare coverage outside the OEP. This is called a Special Enrollment Period, or SEP. The circumstances under which you would qualify for a SEP might be a change in employer-based health insurance for you or your spouse. It might also be due to a move. The timing for each SEP is based on your specific situation.

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP): The MADP runs every year from January 1 through February 14. It allows you to drop your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare, if you wish. If your Medicare Advantage plan includes drug coverage, then you can also join a standalone prescription drug plan at this time. If you already have Original Medicare, then you can’t switch your coverage at this time.

Five-Star Medicare Advantage plans: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) runs the Five-Star Quality Rating System for Medicare Advantage Plans. The purpose of the System is to help consumers learn more about their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans. The plans are rated on a variety of different criteria, including health outcomes for their members.

Starting at the end of 2011, Medicare recipients could enroll in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans which had received a five-star ranking from December 8 through November 30 of the following year—not just during OEP. (This is assuming you meet the plan’s enrollment requirements, such as living in the service area.) You could also disenroll from one five-star Medicare Part C or Part D plan and enroll in another during that time period.

Keep in mind that there are relatively few plans that have received a five-star rating for 2013. You can check the star ratings of the plans in your area by using the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov.

Medicare Supplement plans: You can apply for a Medicare Supplement plan (sometimes called a Medigap plan) at any time. However, unlike during your Medicare Supplement Insurance OEP (the six months following when you first enroll in Medicare Part B), your application can be denied. Or you may be charged a higher premium, based on your health history.

Reminder for 2013

So, there are a few opportunities to change your Medicare coverage outside of the Open Enrollment Period. However, the OEP still remains a yearly opportunity to evaluate your coverage and switch your coverage, if that’s what’s best for you.

So mark your calendars: Medicare OEP takes place October 15 – December 7 in 2013, too. And Medicare Made Clear will be here, providing you with information to help you make the right Medicare choice for you.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

www.GeorgeLitchfield.com – If you or someone in your family is 65 or older and is in need of a Medicare Supplemental Plan or already has a plan, but wants to make sure that it is the right plan please give us a call (888)891-5557 or go to our website www.GeorgeLitchfield.com and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket.

Only 4 days Left to Change Your Medicare Coverage for 2013

I am here to help and answer any questions you might have about your current Medicare plan or your new plan.  There are only 4 days left.

Here’s what you can do during the Open Enrollment Period:

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

Have a great day!

George Litchfield
Medicare Plan Specialist
Lic#OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

Call me today at 888-891-5557

 

OEP Boot Camp: Consider Your Health Care Budget

December 7th is coming fast! Don’t miss out on keeping money in your pocket!

Have a wonderful weekend!

George Litchfield
CA Lic# OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) gives you a chance to change your coverage choices, if you choose. You can also choose to stay with what you have. OEP happens every year from October 15 through December 7.

How do you decide whether to make changes? Well, that takes a little homework. Just think of this Boot Camp series as your study guide.

In the last post, we talked about how changes in your health status may affect your coverage needs and choices. Today we’re going to look at the cost of your coverage and care. Changes in your plan’s cost-sharing terms or in your personal finances may lead to considering a change in your coverage.

Check for Changes in Plan Costs

Original Medicare and most private Medicare plans update costs every year. Medicare or your plan will notify you of any changes in the weeks leading up to the Open Enrollment Period. Private plans send out an Annual Notice of Changes to members. It’s very important to read any plan materials you receive at this time. You can also check your plan’s web site or Medicare.gov for 2013 plan information.

It can be tempting to focus on premiums alone when looking at Medicare costs. But other out-of-pocket health care costs need to be part of the equation, too. Deductibles, copays and coinsurance amounts can add up. For example, if your copay for doctor visits increases, then you will pay more every time you go in. The same is true of drug copays. If the amount increases, then you pay more for every refill.

You may want to write down any cost changes in your plan terms and the amounts. Note also if your plan places a limit on what you may have to pay out-of-pocket. Add this information to your Medicare file. If you haven’t yet started a file, you might want to do so now.

Look at What You Spent

Your health care expenses over the past year can provide a baseline for considering your health care budget going forward. Research your records to see what you spent in premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance. You may be able to get statements from your clinic, hospital and pharmacy showing all your payments. Collect all of this information and keep it in your file. It may be very helpful when comparing coverage choices.

You also need to take an honest look at how health care expenses fit into your budget. Were you able to pay last year’s bills without hardship? Are you expecting any changes in your finances for the coming year? How might these changes affect your health care budget?

People with limited income and assets may be able to get help with their Medicare costs. Many people who qualify don’t take advantage of the federal and state programs set up to help them. These include Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program, Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and others.

 

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

For more helpful information regarding Medicare visit www.GeorgeLitchfield.com or click here and fill out a contact form and we will contact you at your convenience.

Decoding Medicare’s Alphabet Soup – Turning 65? New to Medicare?

It is almost October 15th!  Medicare Enrollment is just a few days away.  So here is so useful information for you. Of if you know anyone turning 65 or 65 years and older. Send them this great article.

Have a wonderful day!

George Litchfield
CA Lic# OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

Welcome to Countdown to OEP! This is the first part of a two-part series of posts designed to help you navigate the 2013 Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP). Countdown to OEP articles give you key information that can help you get ready for OEP.

In case you missed it, here’s the last Countdown to OEP blog post:

  • The Medicare Two-Step: The Path to Your Enrollment Choices

The second part of our series, OEP Boot Camp, will start in October. We’ll take you through specific steps to review your Medicare coverage. Then you can look at  your 2013 plan choices, and take action before the OEP ends on December 7.

Part A, Part B, OEP, SNP—learning about Medicare can sometimes feel more like looking at a bowl of alphabet soup. But it’s important to understand the letters and acronyms that make up Medicare. To help you or your loved one understand the language of Medicare, check the information below.

The ABC and Ds of Medicare

Let’s start with the basics: our ABC and Ds. Medicare has four different “parts.” Each part is labeled using a letter of the alphabet.

  • Part A – Hospital insurance.
  • Part B – Doctor and outpatient insurance. Together, Part A and Part B make up Original Medicare.
  • Part C – Medicare Advantage plans. Offered by private insurance companies, these plans give you the benefits of Original Medicare and may offer extras, like dental coverage or wellness services.
  • Part D – Medicare prescription drug coverage. You can get this in a standalone plan or included in a Medicare Advantage plan.

For more detailed information about the parts of Medicare, visit Medicare Made Clear.

KYA: Know Your Acronyms

The most important acronyms to consider when you’re preparing to enroll in a Medicare plan fall into two main categories: enrollment period acronyms and plan type acronyms.

Enrollment Period Acronyms 

IEP – Initial Enrollment Period. Your IEP might fall during the Medicare OEP (see below). If you’re “aging into” Medicare, your IEP will center on your 65th birthday. If you qualify for Medicare because of a disability or other special circumstance, your IEP might depend on a different date, like the date you started receiving disability benefits.

OEP – Open Enrollment Period. The Medicare OEP happens each year from October 15 – December 7. At this time, Medicare beneficiaries can generally add, switch or drop their coverage. You might also see the acronym AEP (Annual Enrollment Period). This is just another way of saying OEP.

SEP – Special Enrollment Period. This is an enrollment period outside of “regular” enrollment periods like the IEP or OEP. You must meet certain requirements to qualify for a SEP.

Plan Type Acronyms 

MA – Medicare Advantage plan

MAPD – Medicare Advantage plan with Prescription Drug coverage

Also called Medicare Part C, these are Medicare plans offered by private insurance companies. They give you all the coverage of Original Medicare, and may offer extra benefits, too. The main types are:

  • Coordinated care plans:
    • HMO – Health Maintenance Organization. With an HMO, you usually have to use doctors and hospitals within the plan’s network to make sure the plan covers your care.
    • POS – Point Of Service. This is a type of HMO plan that lets members go outside the network for some covered services. You might have to pay a higher copayment or coinsurance for those services.
    • PPO – Preferred Provider Organization. With this type of plan, you can use doctors and hospitals inside or outside of the network. If you go outside the network, you may pay a larger share of the cost of your care.
    • SNP – Special Needs Plans. A type of Medicare Advantage plan that serves people with special health care needs, like ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) or diabetes.
  • Other plans:
    • PFFS – Private Fee-For-Service. Allows you to visit any Medicare-eligible doctor, hospital or health care provider who accepts the plan’s payment terms and conditions.
    • MSA – Medical Savings Account. Combines a special medical savings account with a high-deductible Medicare Advantage plan.

PDP – Prescription Drug Plan. Also called Medicare Part D, this is a standalone plan that helps you pay for prescription drugs.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

For more information visit www.GeorgeLitchfield.com about Medicare, Health Insurance or Life Insurance
Or feel free to call us at (888) 891-5557 today!

Medicare Open Enrollment is just around the corner!

Hi everyone!

Below is some useful information that you can use if you are not sure about the Medicare coverage changes
you can make, as well as open enrollment beginning October 15 through December 7

Have a great day!

George Litchfield
GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

You can change your Medicare coverage once a year.

Current Medicare beneficiaries can change their coverage choices once a year during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP). The OEP starts on October 15 and ends on December 7 every year. It is sometimes called the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP.

During OEP, you can switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, change your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan and more.

What you can do during the Medicare OEP

The Medicare OEP is similar to open enrollment for health care insurance you may have had through an employer. Each year, you get to explore all your Medicare choices to make sure that you have the right coverage for you going forward. If what you already have is working for you, then great. You can relax and let the Medicare OEP pass by. However, if your health status or life circumstances have changed, then you may need to change your Medicare coverage, too.

It’s a good idea to assess your current coverage in the weeks leading up to the Medicare OEP. Then you can be ready to take action as needed to ensure that you have the coverage you need for the coming year.

Here’s what you can do during the Medicare OEP.

  • Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to Original Medicare.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to one that does.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that offers drug coverage to one that doesn’t.
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan.
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

http://www.turning65-newtomedicare.com – Turning 65 ? Looking for reliable Medicare Insurance? or Looking to get better rates. The Litchfield Insurance Agency assists everyone. Whether it be Medicare, Health, Life. We will find the right plan for you. Serving Redlands, Banning, Yucaipa and the Inland Empire.

Two Medicare Enrollment Periods You Don’t Want to Miss

This is a great article by Medicare Made Clear about enrollment periods

Have a great day!
George Litchfield

 

First you join Medicare, then you manage your Medicare coverage. Medicare provides enrollment periods for you to do both.

Here’s a rundown on each of these key time periods.

Initial Enrollment Period for New Beneficiaries

The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is when most people first join Medicare. You need to pay special attention to the specific dates of your IEP. If you miss this window, then you may have to pay more for your coverage, unless you qualify for an exception.

One of two situations triggers your IEP:

  • You are turning 65
  • You are under age 65 and have a qualifying disability

Your IEP is seven months long and includes:

  • The three months before your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits
  • The month including your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits
  • The three months after your 65th birthday month or your 25th month of receiving disability benefits

 

People with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or end-stage kidney disease (ESRD) may enroll in Medicare sooner. You can get more information about these situations at Medicare.gov.

During your IEP you can enroll in Original Medicare Part A, Part B or both. If you enroll in both, then you can choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan if you wish.

Open Enrollment Period for Current Beneficiaries

Once enrolled, you’re not locked into your choices. You can change your coverage once a year during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP). The OEP starts on October 15 and ends on December 7 every year. You may also hear it called the Annual Enrollment Period, or AEP.

During OEP, you can switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, change your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan and more.

It’s a good idea to review your coverage every year to make sure that it still meets your needs. If you are happy with your current coverage, then you don’t have to do anything during OEP.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear.

 

For more information about Medicare Supplement Insurance or any other insurance needs please feel free to contact me at (888) 891-5557

Wishing you a wonderful day!

George Litchfield
CA Insurance License # 0B56846

http://www.turning65-newtomedicare.com Turning 65 ? Looking for reliable Medicare Insurance? or Looking to get better rates. The Litchfield Agency can assists you whether it be Medicare, Health, Life. We will find the right plan for you. Serving Redlands, Banning, Yucaipa and the Inland Empire.