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ISSUED 11/29/2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES SHOULD BE AWARE OF 2011 CHANGES

Open Enrollment for Senior Citizens Underway Through Dec. 31

If you’re a senior citizen who relies on Medicare, the New York State Insurance Department says that you should be aware of changes for 2011 which may affect your health care benefits.

“Open enrollment is underway. In most cases, seniors who want to change their benefits and options must do so during this time period. Seniors should carefully review their plans and understand how they may be affected under new federal health care reforms,” Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.

This year’s federal Medicare open enrollment runs through Dec. 31. During this time, beneficiaries may change prescription drug plans, change Medicare Advantage plans, return to original Medicare, or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time. Enrollment changes will take effect Jan. 1.

Additionally, from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14, Medicare Advantage enrollees can switch to original Medicare. Seniors who decide to switch can also enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.

There are a number of significant changes to Medicare under the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This means that starting in January:

  • Original Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible to receive free preventive services including diabetes screening, mammograms, some vaccines and colorectal cancer screenings. They will also be eligible for a yearly wellness exam to develop or update a personalized prevention plan.
  • Some beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans will get a 50 percent discount on Medicare-covered brand name drugs and a seven percent discount on Medicare-covered generic prescriptions while in the gap in coverage often referred to as the "donut hole."
  • Medicare Advantage plans will not charge enrollees more than traditional Medicare for chemotherapy, dialysis, skilled nursing care or other services deemed appropriate.

Each year, some Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plans choose not to renew their Medicare contracts. Non-renewal notices sent to seniors should include information about available options and seniors receiving non-renewals should weigh their options by comparing coverage benefits and costs. They should understand that new Medicare Advantage plans could have coverage limits and that the participating doctors and prescription drug lists in new plans could differ from those in their current plans.

New York specific information is available on the Department's website page devoted to seniors, "Information for Medicare Beneficiaries," at www.ins.state.ny.us/caremain.htm.

For more information about Medicare options, or to use Medicare’s online Prescription Drug Plan Finder, access www.medicare.gov, or contact Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

Beneficiaries may also call 1-800-701-0501 to find their local office of the New York State Office for the Aging Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP). HIICAP offers free assistance in reviewing health insurance options and can also help seniors see if they are eligible for financial assistance.

Consumers with general insurance questions may contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau toll free at 1-800-342-3736 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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