MASON CITY — The open enrollment period for Medicare is underway.
The spokeswoman for the organization that oversees the enrollment, Julie Brookhart, says it’s an important time. “Beneficiaries can take a look at the way they receive their Medicare and change their plan if they can find one that is better for their needs. We tell people to take advantage of this opportunity — because usually when they do compare — they usually do find something that will meet their needs better for next year,” according to Brookhart.
She says the 625-thousand Iowans who use Medicare have several options. She says there are 39 Medicare Advantage health plans if you do not want to be in the original Medicare. And she says there are 29 stand-alone Medicare drug programs across Iowa.
Brookhart, who works for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says you should have received a mailing that would let you know about any changes in your current plan. “Everyone should get what’s called an annual notice of change. And that’s from any plan that they are in currently — and it’s going to tell them what’s changing for the next year. It would ell them if their monthly premium is going up. It might tell them if a specific drug they take is no longer going to be on their formula” Brookhart says. “And so, these are the reasons why you would definitely review your options.”
She says you can use that information to help you decide what will work best in the coming year. “The Medicare Advantage plans might be an option for people. It covers everything original Medicare A& B covers — but the offer additional benefits — dental, vision, hearing and sometimes gym memberships. They key there is you have to go to the providers in their network,” Brookhart explains.
There is a Medicare Finder Tool available to help you. “It’s just been updated for the first time in ten year…the biggest change is that it is going to connect you if you have a mymedicare.gov account. You would just register for a mymedicare.gov account. And it’s going to pull in the last 12 months of your Medicare Part D prescription claims data, so its already going to populate the prescriptions you already take,” Brookhart says.
Brookhart says you can also call and get help in making your decision. “1-800-633-4227. A customer service rep can walk you through this comparison over the phone. They’ll just need some of your basic information like your Medicare card number. If you don’t want to connect to the mymedicare.gov portal — they are going to need your prescriptions so they can input those,” Brookhart says.
The Medicare Open Enrollment period runs through December 7th.