By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
A copy of “Medicare & You 2018,” the official U.S. government Medicare handbook published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), arrived in the mail several days ago.
The handbook is also available online.
Here are some highlights:
New Medicare Cards
For those of us already enrolled in Medicare, we will be getting new Medicare cards. This is in response to concerns about our Social Security Number being on our Medicare card.
Your Social Security Number will not be on the new Medicare Card you will be receiving. Rather, each of us will be getting a new Medicare number. The number will be unique to you. The new card will not impact coverage or benefits.
According to the information found on the inside front cover of the handbook (Page 2), the new cards are scheduled to be mailed between April 2018 and April 2019.
To be sure you receive your new card, make sure the Social Security Administration has your current address.
Also, CMS advises us to “beware of anyone who contacts you about your new Medicare card,” especially if they request personal or private information. You will not be asked to provide any personal or private information to get your new Medicare card.
Getting the Most from Medicare
Page 3 of the handbook features a checklist of steps you can take to make sure that you are able to get the most out of your Medicare coverage.
Annual Open Enrollment Period
This year, the Open Enrollment period for us to make changes to our Medicare health and/or prescription drug coverage plans starts on Sunday, Oct. 15, and runs through Thursday, Dec. 7. Any changes will become effective on Jan. 1, 2018.
Keep in mind that each year, changes can be made to Medicare health and prescription drug plans. The changes can impact coverages, costs, providers and pharmacies that are in the network as well as whether your current plan(s) will be available in the coming year. Be sure to review the materials that your current health and prescription drug plan provider send you about any changes that will take effect on Jan. 1.
You may also want to compare your current plan(s) with other options that are available. You may be able to save money. You may find a plan that better meets your needs.
To compare plans, you can go to the Medicare Plan Finder website or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
You can get personal counseling about selecting plans by contacting the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) in your state. To find a local SHIP, click here.
If you are satisfied your current health and prescription plans will best meet your needs in light of any changes that will take effect next year, and the plans are still be offered, you do not need to do anything.
If you want to change to a different plan, the change needs to be made before the Open Enrollment Period ends.
The Open Enrollment Period may be the only time you have each year to make changes to your Medicare health and prescription drug coverages.