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Medicare and You:
Hang on to that book!
by Janis Hall
Sept. 23, 2015
The Medicare and You 2016 books have started arriving in Vermonters’ mailboxes. If you receive one, please resist the urge to throw it in the recycling bin. Allow me to explain why it is important, and to provide some tips on how to get the most out of the book without necessarily reading every page.
The Medicare and You book is mailed to every Medicare beneficiary at this time of year. Why now? Because Medicare Open Enrollment begins October 15, and that is when everyone who’s signed up for Medicare has the opportunity to change plans.
It really can pay to review your plan during open enrollment, and the booklet is a good place to start this process. Your current plan may be about to raise your premium cost or change coverage details. I know a couple who compared plans last year and chose a new one that not only saved them money but also provided better coverage for their needs.
Note, you will also get information in the mail from insurance companies about their plans. But the Medicare and You handbook is an unbiased guide designed to help you understand all options and make the smartest choices.
So, if you can put your hands on your Medicare and You booklet now, let’s take a look at it together.
The front cover lists three sections that are important to start with. This is a good strategy so you won’t get overwhelmed.
The “big picture” is covered in pages 12-22, which explain the very basics about Medicare and the kinds of choices you can make during open enrollment.
The detailed view is available starting on page 37, where you can learn exactly what services and other needs are covered by Medicare.
Then if you flip to the back of the book you’ll see this year’s available health plans and their monthly costs starting on page 153. Check to see if your costs are about to go up, and compare your plan to the other choices listed.
Also look over the table of contents on page 4. You’ll see all the types of questions that this book can help answer. For example, it shows there’s information about how to get help paying for your plan starting on page 119.
You should hold onto the Medicare and You book not only for open enrollment, but throughout the year. You might need to check what services you can get covered, and how often; especially if you develop a new health problem. Or you might need to learn about your rights, and what to do if you believe you have experienced Medicare fraud.
If you prefer a digital copy to read on your computer or on a device such as a Kindle or iPad, see the inside of the front cover for instructions. You can download a booklet (make sure it says 2016 on the cover), or sign up to receive next year’s copy digitally.
The book also contains important contact information: 1-800-MEDICARE, as well as the phone number for our State Health Insurance Assistance Program (which is accessed through our Vermont Senior HelpLine), and www.medicare.gov are all right there on the back cover in case you have questions later on.
So if there’s a Medicare and You book going out in your recycling bin, I hope it is just last year’s issue.
We encourage you to use the Medicare.gov web site if you can. Among its many useful features, there’s an excellent plan-comparison tool that provides personalized recommendations based on your health care and prescription needs.
Another way to get a leg up for Medicare Open Enrollment is to attend a class. The next one scheduled in our region is in Woodstock on October 7 from 1:00-2:30 P.M. To get full location details and reserve your spot, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119.
60 Plus is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging. Both can be reached by calling the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119.
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