Seniors urged to review Medicare coverage

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is urging Mississippi seniors to review their prescription drug plans before the end of open Medicare program enrollment.

Open enrollment for Medicare prescription drug plans and the Medicare Advantage program ends on Dec. 31. Insurance companies can make changes to those plans on a yearly basis, Chaney said, so it is important that seniors look at their plan and make sure their needs are covered.

“Carefully examine all available plans during each annual enrollment period because your current plan may no longer best meet your needs,” Chaney warns.

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“Be sure to check the features of your plan, including the list of drugs covered, the premium, deductible, and cost-sharing you pay, and any coverage gap.”

Millions of seniors and the disabled will probably face hefty premium increases next year for prescription drug coverage.

Avalere Health, a management consulting firm, says among the top 10 drug plans in terms of enrollment, the average monthly premium will increase anywhere from 8 percent to 63.7 percent.

Those plans are also reducing the number of medicines that they’ll cover by about 9 percent, according to Avalere Health.

Chaney is also warning seniors to report questionable and abusive sales practices by companies seeking to sell prescription drug plans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently issued regulations designed to curb the abusive sales tactics. The regulations went into effect Oct. 1. Plans started enrolling new beneficiaries for their 2009 coverage on Nov. 15.

“The regulations give insurers bright-line guidance on what types of marketing activities are acceptable and what types are not acceptable,” said Kerry Weems, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a recent release.

Chaney said insurance companies must be licensed by the state, may not make unsolicited contacts with residents, and must have an appointment in advance before coming to your home.