By Michelle M. Mulvena, Esq.
This is the second posting in a three part series that discusses the Medicare open enrollment period for Medicare Parts A, B, C and D. Check out the first part here.
As you know, the Medicare annual open enrollment period began on November 15, 2010 and runs through December 31, 2010. This is the only opportunity you will have to make changes to your Medicare plans for 2011 so it is essential to take advantage of this time frame.
Medicare benefits are split into four parts:
- Part A covers hospitalization and other in-patient care.
- Part B covers services and treatment such as doctor visits.
- Part C is known as the Medicare Advantage plan, which includes Part A and Part B as well as extra benefits.
- Part D is the prescription drug plan.
Beneficiaries choose either original Medicare (A and B) or the advantage plan, and can then elect to add Part D. If the beneficiary needs services not covered by these plans, they can select a Medigap plan.
Participants of Part C, Medicare Advantage, get government-provided Medicare through a private insurance company, in the form of a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization. It usually includes the elements of Part A and Part B hospitalization, medical care and a prescription drug plan, and often comes with extras, such as covered annual physicals.
Medicare Advantage includes specialized care for people who need a large amount of health care services. In addition participants are covered for emergency or urgent care services when traveling outside of their plan coverage area.
For Medicare Advantage participants it is especially important to pick the right plan during the open enrollment period. Unlike previous years, people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans can no longer switch to other Medicare Advantage plans during January, February and March. However, after January 1, 2011, participants can still leave their Advantage plan and go back to original Medicare.
Right now there is a lot of information circulating out there about the open enrollment period. Buyer beware of Medicare scams and take precautions to protect your Medicare number as diligently as you would protect your social security number. Identity theft and fraud targeting seniors is in full force this time of year. Make sure you are receiving information from trusted sites such as Medicare.gov or from your local Senior Center or Elder Service Plan.
Michelle Mulvena is an attorney at Moschella & Winston, a law firm specializing in legal planning and protection for individuals and families for over 30 years. She is also host of the Somerville Cable TV show, “Legally Speaking with Michelle Mulvena.” Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 776-3300.