Finding the Right Plan During Medicare Open Enrollment

open enrollment 2016It’s that time again for the nation’s more than 54 million people who get health coverage through Medicare to decide what they want in 2016.

Lynda Flathers just got a packet of information in the mail about changes to her Medicare Advantage plan for 2016. Although happy with her current coverage, Flathers wants to make sure that her plan is still her best option. So she’ll shop during Medicare’s open-enrollment period, which got underway Thursday and runs through Dec. 7. Still, she’s a bit reluctant.

“It can be kind of confusing, and you just never know if you’re making the right decision,” says Flathers, a 65-year-old from Chino who works in fund development.

Medicare beneficiaries can change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage during Medicare’s annual open-enrollment period.

Like Flathers, many seniors find shopping for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans overwhelming.

Experts suggest steps to finding the right plan.

Let George Help! “Most people, once they select a plan, they tend to stay with that plan,” says Ronald Bolding, president of Pomona-based Inter Valley Health Plan. And that may be fine. But the cost and benefit details of Medicare Advantage and stand-alone Part D drug plans change every year, so the plan that was the least expensive option in 2015 may not be for 2016.

“I do not remember a time when we did not make some kind of adjustment” to benefit designs, says Sherry Stanislaw, senior vice president with SCAN, a Medicare Advantage plan based in Long Beach.

Those changes can be costly. A recent survey of 49,000 people using eHealthMedicare.com to compare Medicare plans found that only 8% of those enrolled in Medicare Advantage and only 5% in a stand-alone Part D policy had the lowest-cost plan. Those who switched to a new Part D drug plan saved nearly $700 in 2015, and were 20% less likely to hit the prescription drug coverage gap.

Review all plan costs. Monthly premiums across all Medicare Advantage plans being sold in California for 2016 average $29.85. The highest premium is $221 per month, and the lowest is zero, according to an analysis by Health Pocket, a technology company that compares health plans. Nearly half of the Medicare Advantage plans available for purchase in California will have no monthly premium at all.  For prescription drugs, the average Part D premium in California is $61.78. But averages are just that.

Our big take-away is to look at not how has the market changed, but how has my plan changed with regard to the medications and services I use,” says Casey Schwarz, senior counsel for education and federal policy with the Medicare Rights Center. That means looking beyond the monthly cost of your plan to examine all possible expenses.

“A lot of people use their premium to evaluate their plans, but that’s just one cost,” says Elaine Wong Eakin, executive director of California Health Advocates, a Medicare advocacy organization.

Carefully review the deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance you’ll be required to pay when you go for care. A plan with a low monthly premium may be more expensive in the long run if doctor visits or prescriptions come with high costs throughout the year, Wong Eakin says.

Review drug lists. Drug benefits in 2016 may be less generous in many plans as insurers increase costs, including deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Confirm that the medications you need are covered by your plan, and take time to understand the various rules you’ll need to follow.

Confirm that your doctors participate in your plan. “That’s one of the things to evaluate when looking at a plan for the next year is whether your providers will be in network,” Schwarz says. Going outside your plan’s network can be costly.

Check star ratings. Medicare has a quality rating system in which plans are ranked from one to five stars, with five the highest. Experts suggest choosing a plan with at least four stars, if available. Of the 37 Medicare Advantage plans offered in Los Angeles County for 2016, 19 received a rating of four stars or higher. Just four of the 25 stand-alone Part D drug plans earned four stars; none earned the top rating of five stars.

 It’s my pleasure from year to year to help you choose and be in the right plan for you. – George

Fall Is In The Air

hawaii

I recruited this local Hawaiian family for an impromptu photo… Happy Falls!”

Fall is in the air.  And you know what that means? Change
Well, the same holds true in the Medicare Advantage Plan arena.

The 1st 2-3 weeks of Open Enrollment have been extremely busy. Next year beginning January, 2016 Humana will no longer be accepted at Beaver Medical Group or Redlands/Yucaipa Medical Group. If you have Humana’s Medicare plan, and want to stay with those groups, you must change plans by December 7th otherwise you will be assigned to a new medical group and doctor.

Health Net’s Healthy Heart plan is adding a $30 a month premium to the plan beginning January, 2016. They do have a strong drug formulary, however. The vast majority of plans are still $0. AARP Medicare Complete Plan 2 (Secure Horizons) continues to be a popular choice for 2016. SCAN has earned a 4 1/2 STAR Rating from CMS. (Highest among above mentioned plans). Very good benefits and member services too. Congrats SCAN!

Remember, if you’re happy and satisfied with your current plan, you do not need to do anything. It will automatically renew. If you feel like you might want to change plans, there is still plenty of time till December 7th. But please call as soon as possible to schedule a time to meet with me (909)792-3300.

As the new year approaches, keep in mind, we have Affordable Dental, Chiropractic and Life Insurance options available for you. Call us for a Free quote.

 Terri and I send our Best Wishes to you and yours for a Wonderful holiday season (a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year )…until then, Happy Falls….I mean Fall !

 

Rainbow in Paradise

On a recLitchfield Insuranceent trip to Maui, Terri and I visited Lahaina, an 1800′s whaling village that nowadays is a tourists hot spot. As we came into town I snapped this shot of one of the many rainbows that appear throughout the island. What you see is can not compare to seeing this in person, but trust me, the colors and brilliancy were beyond description!

And speaking of Trust, I’d like to take this opportunity to say how much we appreciate you as our clients and friends. You put your trust in us to guide and assist in your many choices from year to year. It is an honor for us to do so.

Our desire is to bring value into your lives through our service and being a resource for you in the very confusing and ever changing landscape we call, Health Care.

As a reminder, Open Enrollment this year is Oct. 15th – Dec. 7th. For your family and friends under 65, open enrollment for them is Nov. 15th -Feb. 15th. Depending on peoples circumstances they may be able to enroll outside these dates. Just give us a call or visit our offices. We’re here to help!

Lastly, one of my favorite classic songs is Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Well, at the end of that Rainbow I can say, there is a Pot of Gold, and I have found it!….In my Faith, Family, Friends and our Country..

 LitchfieldInsurance.com

George Litchfield is license by the State of California License #0B56846

Medicare Open Enrollment Is Here: 3 Must-Know Facts

medicare open enrollmentOn Oct. 1, millions of uninsured Americans got their first chance to sign up for the health insurance exchanges that the Affordable Care Act created. Yet in all the attention that the new Obamacare exchanges have received, another important event for health care coverage has largely gone unnoticed — even though it potentially affects even more of the American public.

More than 50 million Americans are eligible for Medicare according to the Department of Health & Human Services, and every year, Medicare participants get a chance to choose or make changes to their existing coverage options under the program.

With the annual open enrollment period running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, those eligible for Medicare — typically Americans age 65 or older — need to be prepared to make smart choices about their coverage.

Here are three things you should know in helping you make your decision.

1. Obamacare Open Enrollment Is Entirely Different From Medicare Open Enrollment.

One major source of confusion among Medicare recipients comes from the fact that the inaugural open-enrollment period for Obamacare is happening at the same time. However, if you’re eligible for Medicare, you won’t get your insurance from an Obamacare health insurance exchange, and if you visit the exchange websites, you won’t find Medicare as an option. Moreover, the insurance policies you will find on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges won’t be appropriate for Medicare recipients, as they won’t take Medicare’s provisions into account.

Instead, the Medicare website is the best place to start in signing up for Medicare or choosing a new coverage plan. There, you’ll find detailed information to help you learn more about your available options and find out about the various plans that are available to you.

2. Changing Plans During Open Enrollment Can Be Especially Smart If Your Health Has Changed.

One of the most important aspects of Medicare open enrollment is that it allows Medicare recipients to tailor their coverage to their particular needs. Although traditional Medicare Part A and B coverage doesn’t involve much decision-making, prescription drug coverage under Part D gives Medicare recipients many different choices. Some Part D plans offer comprehensive coverage of prescription drug costs but at higher monthly premiums, while other Part D plans have much lower monthly costs but don’t pay for as much of your potential prescription-drug expenses.

If your health hasn’t changed much during the past year, you might well find that your existing Part D coverage still suits your needs and therefore won’t need to make major changes. But if your health has changed markedly, requiring you to take new prescription drugs, looking at other Part D plans might save you money. Paying higher premiums might actually reduce your overall costs if a new plan covers more of the out-of-pocket costs of obtaining your prescriptions.

3. Understand the Medicare Advantage and Medigap Coverage Options.

Another source of confusion for Medicare recipients involves the difference between traditional Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance, and Medicare Advantage plans. Traditional Medicare covers you for medical services from any provider that accepts Medicare, but it doesn’t cover all of the costs of those services. In order to cover the rest, those who have traditional Medicare can get Medicare supplemental insurance from third-party insurers, with policies designed to fit Medicare’s broad coverage.

On the other hand, Medicare Advantage plans often take the place of traditional Medicare coverage, with many plans offering both medical services and prescription-drug coverage in one package. Medicare Advantage plans often involve networks of physicians through health maintenance organizations or preferred provider organizations, so you might not have as much flexibility to choose whatever doctor you like. Assessing the cost differences can be complicated, but the right choice can nevertheless produce substantial savings.

Make the Smart Choice

It’s easy to let Medicare’s open enrollment period pass you by without a thought, especially if you’ve largely been happy with your existing coverage. But this is the only chance during the year you have to assess what you’re spending on health expenses, so taking the time to see if a new Medicare coverage option would save you money is well worth the effort.

–This article is from DailyFinance.com

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.

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.

OEP Boot Camp: Assess Your Health Care Needs

Hello,

If you are just turning 65 or are already receiving Medicare these are some great steps given on OEP (Open Enrollment Period) Boot Camp  to keep you on track. December 7th will come faster than you think, so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or visit our website if you have any questions about what you read below.

Have a great day!
George Litchfield – Medicare Plan Specialist
CA Lic#OB56846

GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

The first in a 6-post series designed to help you make informed Medicare choices for 2013

It’s a good thing that the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) happens every year. Why? Because things can change, including your health. And changes in your health may change what you need from your Medicare coverage.

The Open Enrollment Period is October 15 – December 7. This is your chance to choose the coverage that you think best fits your needs. The Medicare decisions you make now will be in place for all of 2013. You won’t be able to make any changes until the next Open Enrollment Period a year from now, unless you qualify for an exception.

 

 

OEP Boot Camp is a step-by-step guide to gathering information that can help you make Medicare decisions. You may want to start a file to keep track of what you learn and collect through the process.

Step 1 is to assess your health care needs. Of course, it’s impossible to predict all of your needs. We can’t know what might happen. The key is to focus on what you do know—the state of your health and how you use health care services. Let’s get started.

Your Health Status

How is your health, in general? Has it changed significantly in the past year?

Any changes in your health status could mean that you will require more or less care and services in the future. A new diagnosis may mean you need to go to the doctor more than you have in the past. Perhaps you have a planned surgery or procedure coming up. Or maybe you had a health problem that’s been resolved.

It’s a good idea make a list of the health problems you received care for over the past year. Some may be ongoing such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a chronic condition like diabetes. Remember to include any vision or hearing problems as well. Other health problems may have been one-time needs. This might include an illness or injury that was treated and healed. It’s important to know what services you may not need anymore as well as those you will. It’s a good idea to list the medications you are taking at this time as well.

Your Health Care

Now consider how you use health care services. How often do you visit the doctor, in general? Do you see any specialists? Do you live in a long-term care residence or skilled nursing facility (nursing home)? These questions touch on some examples. The services you use may be different.

A review of the health care services you received over the past year can be a good gauge for what you may need next year. The summary of benefits that you periodically get from Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan is a good source of information. It lists the services you received and the costs. You can use these statements to identify those services that you think you’ll continue to need. You will also be able to see any that were one-time needs.

Now What?

Understanding your health needs is a good first step toward making your Medicare decisions. Over the course of this series, we’ll discuss costs, coverage considerations and more. The goal is to help you help you make informed choices during the Open Enrollment Period.

You have from now until December 7 to change your Medicare coverage choices, if you wish to. In addition to this blog series, you can get help from these resources:

  • Medicare.gov, where you can download a copy of Medicare & You 2013 and find other helpful information
  • Private health insurance company web sites for information about 2013 Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plans
  • The 2013 Annual Notice of Change mailed to you from your Medicare Part C or Part D plan, if you’re currently enrolled in one
  • A licensed health insurance agent in your community who can discuss all your plan choices with you

Also, be sure to report back to OEP Boot Camp for our next topic, Consider Your Health Care Budget. Our goal is to help you make informed choices during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

—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 or go to our website and we will give you a quote and help you keep money in your pocket.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Not hearing so well lately?  Here is some great information on the signs and the causes of hearing loss.

Have a great day!
George Litchfield
CA Lic#OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

Nearly one in five Americans has some level of hearing loss.1, 2 It is the third most common chronic condition among older Americans.1, 2

Hearing loss can contribute to social isolation, higher risk of falls, depression and dementia. Seniors with severe hearing loss can have five times the risk of getting dementia as those with normal hearing.3 In addition, the brain loses its ability to hear when deprived of sound. Preserving hearing can help the brain perform at its best.4

It’s important to understand the signs and causes of hearing loss. That way, you can take charge of your hearing health.

Signs of Hearing Loss

You may suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from hearing loss. Watch for these signs:

  • People complain that you turn the TV volume up too high
  • You have trouble following conversations when more than one person is talking
  • People seem to mumble or not speak clearly
  • You have trouble hearing in noisy backgrounds

Causes of Hearing Loss

Aging is the most common cause of hearing loss. The inner ear can change over time and affect hearing. Other factors include:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Ear wax
  • Auditory nerve damage from head injuries or tumors
  • Infections
  • Changes in blood supply to the ear due to heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes

You can take steps to help prevent hearing loss. Here are some things you can do:

  • Turn down the volume on your television, radio, phone, etc.
  • Wear ear protection when you’re in noisy places or using loud equipment, like a lawn mower
  • Get enough vitamins A, C and E, and N-acetylcysteine. This can help protect ear cells against free radicals generated by loud noise

Get Your Hearing Tested

The effects of untreated hearing loss are serious. You may have problems in your relationships with friends and family. Your overall health and quality of life can suffer.

It’s best to get help as soon as you notice signs of hearing loss. You can get a simple hearing test. It can help you decide whether you might need more help. Medicare Part B may cover hearing exams that your doctor orders.

1. Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov 14, 2011

2. National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders, 2011.

3. Archives of Neurology, Feb 2011

4. The Journal of Neuroscience, Aug 31, 2011
–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

For more help with your Medicare question call us at (888) 891-5557 or visit GeorgeLitchfield.com and fill out our no obligation consultation form and we will call you.

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today—October 15

October 15th is here and open enrollment for Medicare is just until December 7. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore your medicare options. There is some very useful information below. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Have  a great day!
George Litchfield
CA License# OB56846
GeorgeLitchfield.com

 

Medicare Open Enrollment is a time each year when beneficiaries can change their Medicare coverage, if they choose. It’s much like open enrollment for health care insurance you may have had through an employer.

Open enrollment is your chance to explore all your Medicare choices and make sure that you have the right coverage for you in the coming year. If what you already have is working for you, then great. You can relax and let open enrollment pass by. However, if your health status or life circumstances have changed, then you may want to change your Medicare coverage, too.

You will receive information from your current plan sponsor in the weeks leading up to open enrollment. It’s important to read this material. It will explain any changes in your plan benefits for the coming year.

You may want to read our blog post Learning About 2013 Changes to Your Medicare Plan for more details about the material you may receive. This is just one post in our Countdown to OEP blog series. You can link to other helpful posts in the series from there. (OEP stands for Open Enrollment Period.)

Open enrollment starts on October 15 and runs through December 7. Here’s what you can do during open enrollment:

  • Change from Original Medicare (Parts A and B) to a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or vice versa. You remain enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B even when you choose to get your coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Many Medicare Advantage plans include drug coverage and other extra benefits that you don’t get with Original Medicare. They also often have defined provider and pharmacy networks that you must use. You can choose to go outside the network, but you may pay more for services.
  • Switch from one standalone Medicare prescription drug plan to a different Medicare prescription drug plan. You can get a standalone drug plan if you have Original Medicare or certain Medicare Advantage plans (Private Fee-For-Service or Medicare Savings Account.)
  • Join a Medicare prescription drug plan or drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely. If you drop your drug coverage, you may have to pay more to get it back later.

–This information was provided by Medicare Made Clear

For more help with your Medicare question call us at (888) 891-5557 or visit GeorgeLitchfield.com and fill out our no obligation consultation form and we will call you.