Owens Announces Expanded Medicare Open Enrollment

Congressman Bill Owens today announced Medicare’s Open Enrollment period that began this week and has been expanded to last seven weeks through Wednesday, December 7th. The expanded enrollment period will give seniors and those with disabilities more time to compare and find the best plan that meets their needs.

“Thanks to the recent health care law, New Yorkers are seeing more options as they choose their health care plans,” said Owens. “Additionally, the Affordable Care Act is closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ for seniors and providing recipients free preventive services that keep them out of the hospital and lower the nation’s health care costs.”

In addition to adding eight years to Medicare’s solvency, the Affordable Care Act is also strengthening the program by providing beneficiaries critical services and discounts:

· Free key preventive health services: 1,151,878 Medicare beneficiaries in New York have already taken advantage of free preventive health services like mammograms and colonoscopies.

· Free annual wellness visits: 86,191 New York Medicare beneficiaries have received a free check-up from the doctor of their choice – and will continue to have the opportunity each year under the Affordable Care Act.

· 50% Discount on brand-name drugs: For those in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” coverage gap, there is a 50% discount available on brand-name drugs. 121,759 seniors in the Medicare Part-D donut hole have received discounts totaling $72,930,323.94 in the first eight months of this year alone – an average discount of $598.97 per beneficiary.

Beginning this week, Medicare recipients can begin reviewing the 2012 quality ratings for Medicare Advantage (Part C) and prescription drug plans (Part D) for the upcoming year.

A web-based Medicare Plan Finder is now available to help beneficiaries, their families, caregivers and senior program advocates look at all local prescription plan options that are available for the 2012 benefit year. To access the Medicare Plan Finder, New Yorkers can visit https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/.

Resources for Medicare Beneficiaries

· www.medicare.gov offers personalized comparisons of costs and coverage of plans available in different areas across New York State.
· 1-800-MEDICARE provides around-the-clock assistance for those who wish to find out more about coverage options.
· The Medicare & You handbook – which has already been mailed to Medicare recipients – is also accessible online at http://www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf
· One-on-one counseling assistance from the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Local SHIP contact information can be found at http://www.medicare.gov/contacts/organization-search-criteria.aspx

People with Medicare who have limited incomes and resources may qualify for Extra Help paying for their prescription drug costs. There is no cost to apply for Extra Help, also called the low-income subsidy. Medicare beneficiaries, family members, trusted counselors or caregivers can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778) to find out more.

Protecting Against Fraud and Identity Theft

During this Open Enrollment Period, Medicare recommends that people treat their Medicare number as they do their social security number and credit card information. People with Medicare should never give their personal information to anyone arriving at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should contact Medicare (contact information above). More information is available at www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.