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NCOA urges people with Medicare to follow 6-step Open Enrollment checklist

Arlington, VA — Medicare Open Enrollment starts today. While it’s always important for people with Medicare to review their coverage, this year it’s even more critical.

Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, nearly 7 million people with Medicare could be facing hikes of up to $700 per year for their Medicare premiums and deductibles in 2016. That’s on top of the nearly 80% of beneficiaries who have been notified their Medicare prescription drug coverage rates will increase next year. And while costs keep rising, Social Security recipients will not see an annual cost of living adjustment to help.

“Open Enrollment is a short window of opportunity for people with Medicare to make sure that they’re getting the best value for their money when it comes to health coverage,” said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) Center for Benefits Access. “Many beneficiaries don’t take advantage of this opportunity to review their coverage, to plan, and to take action. That short-term thinking can lead to long-term costs. Now is the time to determine how you’re really spending your health care dollars—and to budget for 2016.”

NCOA recommends that all people with Medicare use this 6-step checklist during Open Enrollment:

  1. Understand your current Medicare coverages and costs: Gather all the Open Enrollment information you’ve received so you know your coverages, premium costs, coinsurance, and copayments. Add up your total out-of-pocket costs for 2015.
  2. Get educated: Understand what’s available, so you can make an informed choice for your situation. NCOA’s free My Medicare Matters® website provides comprehensive, easy-to-understand information about Medicare and will even help you evaluate your coverage options through a Medicare QuickCheck®.
  3. Make a list: What is most important to you—coverages, doctors, medicines, hospitals, pharmacy networks—and do you anticipate any new or changing health needs in the coming year?
  4. Compare your options: Use the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov to compare policies in your area. Pay attention to the Star Ratings for each plan. Remember, the best choice for you may not be the plan that has the lowest monthly premium.
  5. See if you qualify for Extra Help: Depending on your income, you may be eligible for programs to help you pay your health care costs. Visit NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® to complete a free screening for programs like Medicare Extra Help and the Medicare Savings Programs.
  6. Make a budget: Consider how health costs fit into your overall spending. Use the tools on NCOA’s EconomicCheckUp® to make a budget for the coming year. Don’t forget to include other health expenses like dental, vision, hearing or premiums for supplemental insurance.

“Choosing the right Medicare coverage is complicated, but help is available,” said Fried. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP. SHIPs are federally funded programs that provide free assistance for understanding Medicare.”

To find your local SHIP, visit shiptacenter.org or call 1.877.839.2675.

People with Medicare have from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 to evaluate their coverage and make changes. Changes made during Open Enrollment take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. For more information about your Medicare options or what to expect after you enroll, check out the resources at MyMedicareMatters.org.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.