Put it on your fall checklist: Medicare Open Enrollment

By: Julie Green Bataille, Director of Communications

If you’re like me, fall is an extremely busy time of year—getting the kids ready for a new school year, making sure everyone in my family gets a flu shot, getting the house and yard ready for the winter. With everything we have going on, it’s so easy to forget another activity that should be on all our fall checklists: Helping our parents prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment.

Medicare Open Enrollment gives beneficiaries the chance to review their health and prescription drug coverage for the coming year. If they need to make any changes, they can do so between October 15 and December 7. But if they decide that they’re happy sticking with the coverage they have now, they don’t need to do anything else.

For all of us who are caregivers, or who just care about older parents and family members, we need to ensure that they have the right information to make the right choice. Sit down and have a conversation with them, and help them explore their options and find coverage that fits their needs.

If your parents want to go online and sort through the details, they can get an early start, and you can help them navigate the process if needed. We’ve already made sure that the Medicare Plan Finder is fully updated with all new 2013 cost and benefit information for health and drug plans and is ready right now. All your parents need to do is start by entering the drugs and checking on the doctors and pharmacies they want to use. A few more steps will get them a personalized list of their plan choices and help them compare.

Between now and December 7, your parents will be hearing more about the choices, benefits, and lower overall costs they’ll have when it comes to Medicare. We’ll also be adding tips and advice to this blog, to help them you and them consider and weigh choices, and to find places to go to get help if needed.

When Medicare Open Enrollment ends on December 7, we want every single person with Medicare to have health and drug coverage that meets their needs. But we need your help. We need you to help ensure that your older family members have the right health plan.  So when you’re preparing your fall checklist, don’t forget to put Medicare Open Enrollment at the top.

Stay up to date on the latest Medicare news and follow us on Twitter @Medicaregov.


When was your last mammogram?

Have you had your mammogram this year?

Mammograms are breast cancer screening tests that can often detect a lump before you or your doctor can feel it. This can help detect breast cancer early, when it’s the most treatable. All women over 40 should have a screening mammogram every 12 months – and Medicare covers it at no cost if your doctor accepts assignment.

Talk to your doctor about risk factors, and to schedule your next screening. Take control of your health – better health is in your hands.

Getting outpatient therapy? Be sure you know Medicare’s limits

Are you getting physical therapy after a hip replacement? Speech-language pathology services after a stroke? Anytime you get outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech-language pathology services, be sure you know the limits for how much Medicare will pay.

Medicare helps pay for medically-necessary outpatient physical and occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services. There are limits, called “therapy caps,” on these services when you get them from most outpatient providers.

The therapy cap amounts for 2012 are:

  • $1,880 for physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services combined
  • $1,880 for occupational therapy (OT) services

You may qualify to get an exception so that Medicare will continue to pay its share for your services after you reach the therapy cap limits. Your therapist must document your need for medically-necessary services in your medical record, and your therapist’s billing office must indicate on your claim for services above the therapy cap that your outpatient therapy services are medically necessary.

Learn more about Medicare’s limits on therapy services.

Protect yourself and those you love—get your free flu shot

It’s that time of year again.  With the beginning of fall comes the beginning of flu season. 

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy!  It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season in the fall or winter, when given by doctors or other health care providers (such as senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

Schedule your flu shot today!

Keep your loved ones healthy – take them to the doctor

Who doesn’t want another reason to celebrate? This year add a new holiday to your family’s calendar – Take Your Loved One to the Doctor Day on September 20th. After all, what’s a better reason to celebrate than the good health of the people you love?

The best way to stay healthy is to live a healthy lifestyle. Your loved one can live a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease by exercising, eating well, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and taking advantage of Medicare’s preventive services.

Preventive services can find health problems early, when treatment works best, and can keep your loved one from getting certain diseases. The first “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit and yearly “Wellness” visit are a key part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Schedule a doctor’s appointment today, and as long as the doctor accepts assignment there’s no cost. Now that’s something to celebrate! 

“Medicare & You” goes paperless

Love your red, white, and blue “Medicare & You” handbook? Did you ever think it would be nice to get the same information online? Knowing that the number of people 65 and over using the web has tripled in the past 10 years, we thought it would be a good idea too. And, now we’ve got some great news!

As part of the new Medicare.gov, you can go on the web and access all the same information found in your printed handbook. You can learn what’s new for the year, how Medicare works with your other insurance, get Medicare costs, and find out what Medicare covers. Even better, the handbook information on the web is updated regularly, so you can instantly find the most up-to-date Medicare information.

You can also do a lot of things on your own like replace your Medicare card, change your address, sign up or make changes to your Medicare coverage, and find out important date. All this in time for October 15 – the start of open enrollment.

Take advantage of some other great features to get just want you need:

  • Search quickly for what you want and print only the pages you need, while getting the latest, up-to-date official Medicare information, including the most recent list of available plans
  • Get “Medicare & You” in different formats like large print, eBook or audio
  • Subscribe to get an e-mail when information is updated
  • Access personalized information

And, if you’d like to trade in your printed copy for a paperless version, we’ve got you covered. You can choose to get your next “Medicare & You” handbook electronically by using the “go paperless” option. In a few simple steps, you’ll be all set. Sign up today and we’ll send you an e-mail including a link to the new online Medicare & You. It’s instant, current, and convenient.


Get yearly prostate cancer screenings

 Did you know prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men?

Help prevent prostate cancer from affecting you or the men in your life. If you’re a man who’s 50 or older, make sure you get screened for prostate cancer every 12 months.

Your Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers 2 tests to help find prostate cancer early, when treatment works best:

  • Digital rectal exam—You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test—Free to all men with Medicare 50 and older (coverage for this test begins the day after your 50th birthday).

Also, whether you’re seeking coverage information on prostate cancer screenings or another item, service or test, quickly find what’s covered by visiting our newly redesigned website.

Learn more about prostate cancer by visiting the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Early detection matters: get screened every 12 months.


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