Medicare Open Enrollment is a once-a-year window from October 15 – December 7 where beneficiaries can review and change their Medicare health plan and/or their Part D prescription drug plan. While people don’t have to switch plans, it’s important to review how their current plan will change in the new year. Otherwise people can end up paying hundreds of dollars for a drug that was covered under this year’s formula but not next year’s. This is especially true as certain drug prices have soared in the past few years. For example, a generic cholesterol medication recently went up from $27 for a year’s supply to $196. Doxycycline hyclate, a common antibiotic jumped from $20 for 500 capsules to $1,849 between Oct 2013 and April 2014.
Open Enrollment is also an important time to be on heightened alert for scams. With so much information being thrown at seniors, the potential for confusion is high, and scammers feed off of this confusion. In a recent article, our Senior Medicare Patrol Project Director, Micki Nozaki, gave some important tips to avoid fraud, including:
- Do not move out of your Medicare plan unless you want to.
- Be leery of free prizes, giveaways or other gifts offered in exchange for signing Medicare forms.
- Beware of unsolicited phone calls or knocks at your door by people claiming to be Medicare agents (Medicare will not call you or come to your door).
- If someone calls saying you must switch Medicare plans to keep your doctor, contact the doctor’s office yourself to confirm.
- Never give out your Social Security or Medicare number to strangers.
For questions about your coverage and help reviewing your health care and drug plan options, contact your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 1-800-434-0222. They provide free, individual and unbiased counseling on Medicare and other health insurance related issues. To report suspected fraud, call our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080.
Read the article, Medicare Sticker Shock: Soaring Drug Prices Could Trip Up Seniors, for more information on rising drug costs, tips on reviewing your coverage and ways to avoid scams. And, great job to Margaret Reilly, HICAP Program Manager, Micki Nozaki, our SMP Project Director, and Rajul Patel, assistant professor at University of the Pacific pharmacy school and one of our CHA board members, all quoted in this article.
Also, see our webpage on Medicare Open Enrollment.