Partners, senior advocacy organizations help people with Medicare compare, change options
As the December 31 deadline grows closer for people with Medicare to decide how they wish to get their Medicare health benefits for next year, and whether to choose or change a Medicare drug plan, senior advocates and community-based programs are counseling and enrolling thousands of beneficiaries on their choices for the 2011 benefit year.
With just days remaining in the Open Enrollment season, Medicare’s popular consumer telephone- and web-based resources – 1-800-MEDICARE and www.medicare.gov – are assisting these partner organizations and families with their efforts to encourage people who have not enrolled in a Medicare drug plan before or who need to make a change in their current coverage to do so as soon possible to ensure seamless and uninterrupted access to their medications at their chosen pharmacy in January 2011.
“Many people are taking action now with the assistance of our partners across the country, with support from family, friends, caregivers and trusted representatives, using the telephone, face-to-face and web-based resources to make the most of their Medicare in 2011,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “And people with Medicare should be aware of new benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act next year, including recommended preventive health services without cost-sharing, and discounts on covered brand-name prescription drugs in the Medicare prescription drug coverage donut hole.”
“We continue to urge all people with Medicare to focus on Open Enrollment, and, if they need help understanding their options, be aware that they can get help locally in their home communities or seek assistance from state-based senior health advocates. These community partners can help people use the tools on www.medicare.gov that let people compare costs and coverage and find prescription drug and health plan options that best fit their needs for 2011.
After comparing plans, if beneficiaries are satisfied with their current plan’s benefits in 2011, they don’t need to do anything. If another option will provide a better match for their needs, there is still time to change,” Donald Berwick, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said.
Medicare’s Open Enrollment season continues to generate high levels of activity on 1-800-MEDICARE, www.medicare.gov, and at the thousands of counseling events around the country. To sustain awareness, CMS executed a multi-faceted outreach campaign on the national and local levels to ensure that people with Medicare receive personalized assistance to make a confident decision in health and drug coverage plan selection.
Nationally, enrollment opportunities are many and varied.
- Online: As of December 13, the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov) has processed more than 353,000 enrollments since the Open Enrollment period began on November 15, 2010. Compared to the same time last year, 327,000 beneficiary enrollments were completed. There have been over 118 million page views on www.medicare.gov since October 15, or more than four million each day, and 67 million page views of the Plan Finder tool during this time.
- Face-to-face: In more than 1,400 events across the country, CMS has been working closely with its partners across the nation to provide counseling opportunities for people with Medicare in their home communities. CMS has partnered with unique local venues, faith-based communities and senior centers to conduct education and health events. These events also highlight the preventive services available through Medicare, including flu and pneumococcal shots and health screenings.
- On the phone: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) continues to be an important 24/7 resource for personalized assistance during Open Enrollment. Between November 15 and December 14, Customer Service Representatives received more than 2.7 million calls to 1-800-MEDICARE as of December 14th, 2010. This is an increase over the same time period in 2009 when the call volume was 2.42 million.
“While independent consumer surveys show that people with Medicare are very satisfied with their current coverage, our goal during this time is to get beneficiaries to focus on getting the most out of their Medicare benefits and to use all of the information and resources available to make informed and confident decisions,” Berwick said.
More information is available at www.HealthCare.gov, a new web portal made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.