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  • Why Medicare’s Open Enrollment Matters For You

    Evaluating your current health care plan is important even if you are already covered, because there may be a better and cheaper plan out there that is tailored more for your specific needs. Some plans are reducing coverage and increasing co-pays, so it is important to compare your plan to what else is available. Medicare’s open enrollment for 2012 coverage starts this month, an entire month earlier than in past years. Starting October 15 until December 7, you can choose your Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plan for next year. So if you are eligible for Medicare and are not yet enrolled, or if you are already enrolled and want to see what other Medicare plans you are eligible for, now is the time to decide if you want to make a change.

    To compare Medicare’s Advantage and Part D plans to your current coverage, you can access information on Medicare’s Plan Finder. You can use this plan finder to compare prices and coverage of different Advantage and Part D plans in your area.

    Things to look out for

    When comparing plans, pay attention to the lowest total out-of-pocket costs for medications.

    Check to see if your plan is increasing its co-payments.

    Watch out for drug tiers which increase the price of a drug depending on which tier it falls under and may have changed since your last enrollment. Make sure that your drugs have not been moved to a more expensive tier since your last enrollment.

    Be aware of your pharmacy-prescription combination. Some pharmacies charge less for preferred brand-name drugs than for non-preferred generics and some plans will charge a lot if you use nonpreferred pharmacies.

    Resources has a thorough explanatory video that covers everything from basic information about Medicare to specific changes that will take effect in 2012.

    The National Council on Aging offers a number of resources to help you find the specific plan that fits your needs, including their MyMedicareMatters website.

    You can find lots of helpful information on Medicare’s own website or by calling Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Reading over their Medicare 2012 Handbook should answer many questions that you may have.

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    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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