By Chuck Smith-Dewey
Many seniors will get a nice surprise in 2011 – the donut hole in prescription drug coverage left in place during a previous round of Medicare tinkering is starting to be filled in by this year’s historic health care reform. It won’t feel soon enough to seniors, but by 2020, the hole will be eliminated altogether. Less hole, more donut … what’s not to like?
According to a story in the StarTribune of Minneapolis, starting next year, those who hit the donut hole will get half off brand-name drugs and 93 percent off generics. The story calculates that a senior taking six popular drugs will see a 28 percent reduction in costs.
Health reform was demonized by opponents embroiled in a mid-term battle to retake the U.S. House of Representatives. They succeeded, and health reform – or more precisely, unfounded fear and doubt being peddled about health reform – allowed them achieve that goal.
But maybe in this brief respite from campaigning (the 2012 battle for the White House is due to start any minute) everyone should take a second look at the health care bill. We have, and there is plenty to be happy about.
For seniors, in addition to beginning the end of the dreaded “donut hole,” the legislation is projected to extend the viability of the Medicare system at least through 2029. It also includes aggressive measures to drastically cut down on fraud and abuse, and gives seniors new benefits, including preventative care.
For those under Medicare age, reform guarantees access to affordable health insurance to everyone, regardless of pre-existing health conditions. It removes lifetime caps on benefits, so families no longer need to worry about going bankrupt because their coverage is tapped out. It prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage on people when they become sick – a despicable practice known as rescission.
And young people just starting out in the work world can stay on their parents policies until age 26. See a timeline of all changes and when they begin.
Since we’re on the topic of Medicare, folks should remember that the Medicare open enrollment period for 2010 is upon us. If you or someone you know is unhappy with their current Medicare coverage – whether it’s Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D – this is the designated time to reevaluate their coverage and even switch plans.
Open enrollment starts November 15 and continues through December 31, 2010.
November 11, 2010
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If you wish to leave your Medicare Advantage plan and sign up for Original Medicare, you can do so during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. The disenrollment period runs from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 each year. As Original Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, you also have until Feb. 14 to join a prescription drug plan.
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