Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging
It happens in my family every year during the December holidays: as we push our chairs back from dinner, my aunt asks if she should change her Medicare plan. “I have to do it by the end of December, you know,” she says.
This year, my aunt needs to make any changes to her Medicare coverage even sooner – by December 7 – because Open Enrollment ends earlier.
If you usually help your loved ones review and compare their Medicare coverage over the holiday season, take advantage of Thanksgiving to have that important talk. If you wait until the December holidays this year, it’ll be too late - Medicare Open Enrollment ends this year on December 7.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, there’s a lot to be thankful for when it comes to Medicare. Thanks to the health care law, Medicare is stronger than ever, with better choices, expanded benefits, and lower overall costs.
As you gather around the table to help a family member or friend review their Medicare coverage, remember the “3 Cs”:
1. Cost: Finances seem to be in the news every day, and on everyone’s minds these days. Open Enrollment is the time to compare plans total cost –the lowest premium health plan option might not necessarily be his or her best choice overall.
2. Coverage: While health care needs can be hard to predict, looking backward can help. Think about the past year of health – does your loved one have new or different health concerns that may require different services and benefits in the coming year? Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes. Rest assured that no matter what plan you pick, the Affordable Care Act provides access to a variety of preventive services and screenings, at no cost.
3. Convenience: We hear so much about the “sandwich” generation – those of us who get our children on the bus in the morning, work all day, and stop by to take care of our parents in the evenings. Your time is valuable, so make sure you and your loved one consider things like office hours, pharmacy availability and whether the doctors prescribe electronically. A little time thinking about these things now could save you a lot of running around next year.
Our goal by December 7 is that every single American with Medicare has health and drug coverage that meets their needs. So, push back your chair after Thanksgiving dinner and get online - visit our Open Enrollment center where we’ve gathered everything you need, including a video on how the Medicare Plan Finder works, to walk through your options. Or, visit Ask Medicare – specially designed for caregivers -- for resources to make your job as a caregiver easier.
If you’d prefer a more personal touch, call or visit one of the thousands of wonderful volunteers staffing the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs across the country. I’m thankful for their dedication to helping people with Medicare review their options and find a plan that meets their needs.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll be talking with my aunt about her Medicare coverage, so please take the time to talk to your loved one about their Medicare too. I know she’s thankful for the peace of mind that Medicare provides. And I’m just as thankful for all of the information that’s available to help me make sure she’s making the best choice.