A Word About Medicare Coverage from Sen. McLeod

Medicare Open Enrollment More Critical Than Ever This Year

Open enrollment for 2011 Medicare coverage has begun, and the annual ritual is critical for Medicare recipients this year with the changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

Those positive changes make Medicare much stronger, while providing important new benefits beginning in January 2011: free annual wellness visits, free recommended preventative services like mammograms and colonoscopies, and a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs for seniors who fall into the so-called “donut hole” with their annual drug purchases.

For those already on Medicare or those newly eligible, open enrollment lasts almost a full seven weeks this year, from November 15 through December 31, 2010.

“These new benefits make this year’s Medicare Open Enrollment Period especially important. Those enrolled in Medicare can think of the Open Enrollment Period as a yearly coverage ‘check-up,’” said US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a department news release. “It is important for people with Medicare to look closely at their plan, look at the options available to them, consider their health status, and find what works for them.”

For some seniors the task can be confusing. There’s plenty of free help available, however. Seniors can call California’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 1-800-434-0222, or contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Personalized comparison of costs and coverage of available plans can also be found at www.medicare.gov.

In addition, the California Department of Aging has plenty of information on Medicare, including a listing of Medicare Outreach and Education Events in or near your district.

One warning to be passed along to seniors – this is a time they must be especially vigilant to protect themselves from potential identity theft and fraud.

“We know there are people who use this time to scam seniors and rip off Medicare. Seniors should protect their Medicare number the same way they do their Social Security number or credit cards,” warns Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging.

For more information please contact the office of Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, toll free (888)-618-2499.

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