Deadline Friday for patients on Medicare

Friday is the deadline for people enrolled in Medicare to review or change their plans.

Medicare’s annual enrollment period, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, is an opportunity for people who have already enrolled in Medicare to review their coverage plans and decide if they want to switch. People who want to make a late change can call 1-800-633-4227 24 hours a day or visit Medicare.gov, peruse plans, select one and click the “enroll now” button before the end of the day Friday.

Mike Fierberg, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Denver, said Medicare enrollees should not assume their current plan will be the best plan for them in 2013. Plans can change premiums, deductibles and formulas year-to-year. Enrollees may find other plans work better for new medications they may have taken on or eliminated this year.

The only people who absolutely have to change plans, Fierberg said, are those who have received notices that their plan will not exist or provide coverage in their area next year. Those people already have been notified “two or three times,” according to Fierberg.

“That’s only happened in a small amount of rural counties in Colorado,” he said.

Fierberg said he has received numerous questions from people wondering if they can only enroll in Medicare during the annual enrollment period. Actually, when a person can enroll in Medicare depends on various factors. A person who wants to enroll in Medicare based on age (65) has a seven-month window for enrollment beginning three months before their birthday month and ending three months after their birthday month. People who want to enroll because they are 65 or older, retiring and will lose employer-provided health insurance after retirement, can enroll in Medicare up to eight months after they lose their employer-provided insurance. People who are on Social Security benefits when they turn 65 are automatically enrolled in Medicare at that age unless they choose to override that decision, Fierberg said.

If age, retirement or automatic enrollment have not convinced a person to enroll in Medicare and they finally decide to enroll, Fierberg said certain people can enroll during a general enrollment period between Jan. 1 and March 31. Coverage for someone who applies in that period will be available July 1 of the year they apply.

People who are not enrolled in Medicare but want to be can fill out an application at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly. Those who want to apply for Medicare can also call 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday to make an appointment (the number is 1-800-325-0778 for the deaf or hard of hearing). Potential applicants also can visit Grand Junction’s Social Security Office at 825 North Crest Drive. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday except on holidays.


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