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Reviewing Medicare Coverage: Now's the Time

Medicare recipients may save hundreds by switching medical or prescription plans. (Money Images/
Medicare recipients may save hundreds by switching medical or prescription plans. (Money Images/
November 7, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Medicare's annual open enrollment period is under way, a time for recipients to look at their options for medical and prescription drug plan coverage for the coming year.

Pennsylvanians on Medicare have until Dec. 7 to decide to keep their current coverage or make changes. Plans often modify their coverage and cost sharing, and notify consumers about those changes for the coming year.

Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director for AARP Pennsylvania, says recipients need to be aware of those changes to both medical and prescription drug plans.

"We strongly recommend that they look and review those notices of change carefully, compare current choices with other available plans, and change to a different plan during open enrollment if it better meets their current needs," he stresses.

If no changes are made, existing coverage will renew automatically. But AARP notes that some consumers can save hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses just by switching to a different plan.

Johnston-Walsh breaks the considerations down into four categories – cost, coverage, convenience and customer service.

"Compare monthly premiums, annual deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance,” he advises. “Review the doctors and pharmacies as well as the prescription drugs and other services that you'll need in the upcoming year.

“Look at the local doctors, the pharmacies, the services that are included in the plan. And then consider the quality of service that a plan provides."

There is help available to sort through the options. Johnston-Walsh says free assistance is available by phone from Pennsylvania's APPRISE program.

"There's counselors there that will explain the Medicare benefits, sort through the health and prescription options and help complete the enrollment process for the individuals," he states.

APPRISE counselors can be reached toll-free at 1-800-783-7067.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA