Given the uncertain political climate, any new proposed legislation may or may not come to pass. Just recently a bill was introduced that could let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices.
House Democratic members and one Republican indicate that if it can be passed, the bill would provide more power to the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to regulate Part D of Medicare. Part D covers drugs America’s seniors get. While some politicians seem to favor this kind of a move Big Pharma vigorously opposes it as do many Republicans. Right now, private insurers and pharmacy benefits managers do the drug price negotiating.
The rationale behind negotiating prescription drug prices for the over 43 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries is because it is one of the best methods to lower medication costs and open the door wider for seniors to get the medications they need at reasonable prices. The idea of letting another body negotiate drug prices is not new. There is a similar program run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. According to a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report if the government negotiated drug prices, it would potentially cut government spending by $156 billion over a ten-year period.
Another analysis of drug pricing in the U.S., compiled by Rx Savings Solutions, found that over 36 drug manufacturers raised drug prices on hundreds of medications by an average of 6.3 percent.
Trump tweeted his frustrations about drug hikes this weekend, saying that companies “were not living up to their commitments” on pricing. The comments followed an analysis by Rx Savings Solutions that found more than three dozen drugmakers raised the prices on hundreds of medicines in the U.S., for an average increase of 6.3 percent. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), says the analysis “flawed and inaccurate.”
There are a number of other suggestions on the table on how to reduce the price of drugs, such as letting Medicare Part B negotiate prices, moving to approve a larger number of less expensive generic drugs and having drug companies post their drug prices in commercials aired on T.V.
Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
The new Medicare cards have a number on them that is unique to ONLY you. They no longer have your social security number on them. This new change helps to protect your identity.
The new Medicare cards are also paper, and this makes it easier for medical care providers to use and to copy if needed.
If you happen to be in a Medicare Advantage plan, the ID card is your primary Medicare card. Use it whenever you need medical care. Have a Medicare drug plan? Then plan to keep that that card on hand too. And while it may seem like a lot of cards to keep track of, it’s important that you carry the ones you need the most in case of a medical emergency or even just a trip to see a new doctor.
Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
Most, if not all Americans, should have their new Medicare cards. Now is the time to start using it and to cut up or shred your old card.
Don’t have your new card yet? Hunt about the house for older or perhaps unopened mail. You may have missed it when it arrived, thinking it was something else. The new cards are in a plain white envelope and are from the Department of Health and Human Services. If you don’t have any luck finding it, the next thing you can try is signing into MyMedicare.gov to get your number. You can create an account if you do not have one yet.
If that does not work for you, try calling 1-800-633-4227 and check to see if your card was sent to the correct address. You can also call and ask your doctor’s office if they can look up the new number for you. If all else fails until you can get your new card, you can still use your current Medicare card until January 1, 2020.
Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
A fitness program once embedded into Medicare Advantage is no longer available. The loss of this program concerns many seniors who used it to stay fit and healthy, allowing them to age in place.
UnitedHealthcare ceased offering the program as of January 1, 2019, upsetting over 2 million beneficiaries using it. That said they also replaced it with their own fitness program that may be more innovative and flexible.
According to UnitedHealthcare, people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans with the company can now take advantage of “Renew Active.” The main reason the company opted to bring in their own health/fitness program is that they are able to offer more customized programs based on what members want. UnitedHealthcare’s program offers wellness coaches, incentive programs for achieving walking goals and even online exercises. Taken as a whole or in part, the new approach hopes to help seniors improve the quality of their life and health.
Renew Active comes at zero additional cost to those enrolled in eligible UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans and it offers access to over more than 6,000 fitness locations locally, regionally and nationally for “no” additional cost.
Perhaps the most unique option about Renew Active is that seniors have the choice of an in-person fitness orientation plus the benefit of a standard membership at participating fitness locations. This opens the door to the ability to be able to use more amenities, a wider range of fitness equipment and also be able to get into group exercise classes.
It is good news for seniors wishing to stay fit and active that Renew Active does not cost them extra at a time in their life when finances are typically sparse. With the wide range of fitness choices now offered, seniors are likely to find that they have access to just about any program that they are interested in.
Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
These days there are more and more seniors opting to work well past the “usual” retirement age of 65 – the magic number for Medicare eligibility. Perhaps you plan to work well into your 70’s. So what do you do about Medicare? Do you sign up for it? Good question.
The answer to that question depends on how many people work where you do. In other words the size of your employer is important to note. Why? Because there are laws that state that companies with at least 20 workers are prohibited from offering older workers different health benefits than everyone else gets. Basically, that means it’s your choice whether or not to continue with the coverage you get at work, or enrol in Medicare.
Before making any decisions, do your homework and speak to a knowledgeable insurance agent who can lay out all your options and allow you to make an informed decision.
Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
You likely knew it was going to happen at some point, and it did. Medicare changes in 2019 are coming your way.
Medicare is set to expand its scope of coverage and many beneficiaries may find this attractive, but as always, they should check each option that interests them before making a decision. For 2019 Medicare Advantage plans are offering lifestyle support services including home safety fixtures, home meal delivery and transportation from home to medical appointments and back. In some instances, seniors who need a hand with daily living activities may find the cost of a home health aid is covered. Again, always double check what you read about new services offered in order to understand whether or not they apply to you.
Do not like what you chose in terms of Medicare options and plans? This is new option may be for you. For 2019, you have the option to try an Advantage plan for up to three months and switch to another, or back to original Medicare, if you do not like your coverage.
This year you should be aware that Part B premiums are going up. They were $134/month in 2018 and are going up $1.50/month to $135.50. However, those with higher incomes may pay quite a bit more for Medicare Part B.
Along with the fact that Medicare Part B premiums are going up, Medicare deductibles are also going up. The Medicare Part B deductible will be $2.00 higher than in 2018 and cost $185. You should also note that the Medicare Part A inpatient deductible for being admitted to hospital goes up to $1,364; an increase of $24.00 over 2018.
Do you struggle with mobility issues? Then this new service may be appealing. Older Americans with mobility issues sometimes put off going to see a doctor because it is too much trouble. Medicare has been offering a telehealth videoconferencing program to connect patients and doctors, but for 2019 these services are expanding to those receiving stroke treatment or end-stage renal disease.
And last, but not least, Medicare Advantage is going to have a new open enrollment period. In 2019 Medicare Advantage gets its own open enrollment period to begin January 1 and end March 31. Those already in an Advantage plan have a chance to swap plans to a different one or drop Medicare Advantage and go back to original Medicare. This open enrollment period is different from Medicare’s regular open enrollment that runs October 15 to December 7 each year.
Also, eligible Americans who prefer coverage under Medicare (Parts A, B, D) can choose between the original Medicare or Medicare Advantage with cost effective bundles (including prescriptions vision, dental, hearing that Medicare does not offer).
Be informed. These are your Medicare choices.
Posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
Medicare shopping each year during open enrollment can be stressful. However, it does not have to be.
The biggest fear seniors have when shopping for Medicare options during open enrollment is the preponderance of scams, such as deceptive advertising and questionable sale offers. What information out there comes from reliable sources, such as Medicare or a reliable, legitimate insurance agent or broker? What information is from a scam or con artist that wants to steal money?
Whenever there are changes set to take place in Medicare plans and companion offerings, beneficiaries need to look for new plans or other options. This is usually the pivotal point where scam artists attempt to mislead beneficiaries. This year, open enrollment began October 15, 2018 and ran until December 7, 2018 and despite scam operations, the bulk of Medicare marketing has been legitimate. Consumers are relatively pleased about the plethora of Part D prescription drug plans that offer more options for them when combined with original Medicare.
To make sure you are on track and reading accurate, reliable information, go to an official website at medicare.gov. Using the official Medicare website, allows beneficiaries to avoid the possibility of being scammed by private website sites with similar addresses. An example would be instead of medicare.gov, a scammer could use medicare.com, medicare.net or medicare.org. The .gov designation is your guarantee that the information on the website is accurate and reliable.
Often scammers perpetrated their callers by stating they are agents who work for Medicare, or any ads that claim to offer plans endorsed or sponsored by Medicare. Scammers have been known to call Medicare recipients and say they work for Medicare and Medicare sponsored and/or endorsed plan. It is a good idea to just hang up and report such a call. Insurance companies and agent are not allowed to make unsolicited Medicare calls. If you are unsure, only use the official government Medicare website for Medicare plans.
It is also important to read the fine print on everything and take careful note of the appearance of the website you are visiting. Some sales materials and ads look like they come from Medicare, but really do not. If you find something that is misleading in appearance, it may also be misleading you about what it really offers.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for Medicare during open enrollment is to check the information you see. If you are not sure the information you received or found is accurate, check the government Medicare website. And, if you are still not sure about the veracity of what you are seeing, reading or hearing, call reliable insurance brokers who have the information you need at their fingertips.
Posted on Friday, January 11th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
Residents of the United States, citizens and permanent residents, are eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A by demonstrating they have worked at least 10 years where Medicare payroll taxes were paid by them or their spouse and that they are at least 65 years old. New immigrants are not eligible for Medicare no matter how old or young they are. Immigrants must meet residency requirements and be eligible for enrollment just the same as other U.S. residents.
Legal immigrants that are 65 years of age or older and who do not have a work history may buy Medicare Part A provided they can prove they have legally lived in the country for five continuous years. Non-citizen permanent residents under the age of 65 and disabled may qualify for Medicare, but need to meet the same eligibility requirements as for Social Security Disability Income benefits. Those requirements stat that they must have paid Social Security taxes on income and have at least 5 to 10 years of work experience (to accumulate work credits).
If you have questions about your eligibility for Medicare, then contact a knowledgeable insurance agent right away.
Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
During the regular Medicare Open Enrollment period, from October 15 to December 7, versus the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period starting in 2019, you can change pretty much whatever you wish in your plan, depending on the coverage you already have. For instance, you may change from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage or from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare.
With the new changes coming and the implementation of Medicare Advantage open enrollment in early 2019, you are likely to see more information that lets you know whether or not you can wait to enroll in the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period or proceed to enroll via the regular open enrollment period. Be sure to keep an eye on the new Medicare Advantage enrollment registration dates and then make an informed decision about what is best for you and your family.
Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2019. Filed under Medicare
If you are happily enrolled in your Medicare plan, then the Medicare Open Enrollment period does not affect you. If you do not wish to make any changes to your plan, then you do not have to.
Medicare Open Enrollment for those that like what they have and do not want to changes is as simple as doing nothing. If you do nothing to make changes during the Open Enrollment period your coverage will move forward as is. In other words, your coverage under the traditional Medicare continues into the next year.
Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2018. Filed under Medicare