FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kat Fitzpatrick
February 9, 2012
Last Chance to Disenroll from Your Medicare Private Health Plan
-- Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period Ends on February 14 --
New York, NY—Medicare beneficiaries who are dissatisfied with their Medicare private health plans, also known as “Medicare Advantage” plans, have until Tuesday, February 14, to disenroll. Beneficiaries have had the opportunity to drop their private plan and enroll in Original Medicare since January 1, when the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) began. After the MADP, some people with Medicare will have limited opportunities to change their health coverage. However, most will have to wait to change coverage until the Fall Open Enrollment Period, which begins on October 15, 2012.
“Time is running out for beneficiaries to take advantage of the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “People who are unhappy with their plan and wish to make the change back to Original Medicare should do so promptly, but also thoughtfully. The window of opportunity is closing, but you should review your coverage options carefully before you disenroll.”
What are my options during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period?
If you have:
- A Medicare Advantage private health plan with prescription drug coverage, you can switch to Original Medicare plus a prescription drug plan OR Original Medicare without a prescription drug plan
- A Medicare Advantage Private Fee-For-Service (PFFS) plan that does not include prescription drug coverage and a stand-alone prescription drug plan, you can switch to Original Medicare, but you must keep your current prescription drug plan
- Original Medicare or Original Medicare and a prescription drug plan, you cannot make any changes during this time
Original Medicare, the traditional fee-for-service program offered through the federal government, covers most necessary services and is accepted by most doctors and facilities across the country. However, it does not cover the full cost of care. Many people who enroll in Original Medicare choose to purchase supplemental coverage to help pay for out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and coinsurance.
Beneficiaries who disenroll from their Medicare private health plan should be aware that they may have limited ability to buy coverage that supplements Original Medicare. State laws vary on when beneficiaries can purchase Medicare supplemental policies, also known as Medigaps. Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to find out if and when you can enroll in a Medigap plan in your state. You can find the number for your local SHIP by visiting www.shiptalk.org or calling 800-MEDICARE.
Beneficiaries who disenroll from their private plan may need to join a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan in order to maintain drug coverage. Medicare Rights advises beneficiaries who are choosing a plan to consider not only premium and copayment costs, but also whether the drugs they take are on the plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs) and whether they can use the pharmacies they prefer. Beneficiaries should also check to see whether the plan places any restrictions on the drugs they take. Restrictions can take the form of quantity limits, prior authorization and step therapy. To learn more about choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan that best meets your needs, visit Medicare Interactive.
Starting in 2012, there’s a new special enrollment period which allows beneficiaries to switch their coverage even after February 14th when the MAPD ends. Beneficiaries can make a one time switch into a Medicare Advantage plan or stand alone prescription drug plan with a five-star rating. This star rating is an overall performance rating that the government gives to all Medicare plans based on measures such as customer service, pricing and member satisfaction. To learn more about special enrollment periods visit Medicare Interactive.
“It is important that someone thinking about switching into a five-star plan consider how the switch will affect their access to health care,” said Baker. “Even if a plan has five stars, you should always check to make sure that it fits your needs, for example, that your drugs are on the plan’s formulary or your doctors are in the plan’s network.”
Learn more about changing your Medicare private health plan, and evaluate your coverage options, on Medicare Interactive.
- Find the number for your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at www.shiptalk.org.
- Find answers to Medicare questions at Medicare Interactive (www.medicareinteractive.org), the Medicare Rights Center’s free counseling tool.
- To disenroll from your private plan and enroll in a stand-alone prescription if necessary, call 800-MEDICARE.
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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.
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