By Rick Beavin, California Market President
The federal government has announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for people with Medicare impacted by the wildfires in California and who live (or did live at the time of the disaster) in impacted areas where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared an emergency or major disaster. This SEP is also available to people who don’t live in impacted areas, but rely on help making health care decisions from friends or family members who live in the impacted areas.
The SEP will run at least through March 8, 2019, giving individuals with Medicare additional time to change their Medicare medical and prescription drug plans for 2019, including Medicare Advantage plans, in the event they were unable to do so during another qualifying enrollment period.
If you are eligible for Medicare, qualify for the SEP, and haven’t yet selected a 2019 Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan here are four simple steps to help you make the best decision:
- Review your current Medicare health plan. Look at what you’ve spent on health care in the past year, including hospital expenses and prescriptions. Evaluating what you spent in 2018 will help you decide whether your current health plan meets your needs, both financially and medically.
- Know your options for Medicare coverage:
- Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A and B): Provides basic coverage for medical services and supplies in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other health care settings. Original Medicare does not include coverage for most prescriptions and includes cost-sharing in the form of deductibles and coinsurance.
- Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C): Includes all the coverage offered under Original Medicare, and typically also includes prescription drug coverage. Medicare Advantage plans may include additional benefits as well, such as dental, hearing and vision coverage; a nurse advice line; and a fitness program. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers, like Humana, and are steadily gaining in popularity: The number of Americans choosing this option is expected to climb to 36 percent in 2019, up from 33 percent in 2017, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part D): Offers coverage for prescription medications. Such a plan can be added to Original Medicare, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan or to some Medicare Advantage plans (that do not include prescription drug coverage), some Medicare Cost Plans, and some Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA) plans.
- Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Plans: Pays most costs not included under Original Medicare, such as deductibles and coinsurance. These plans do not have a set provider network, and enrollment is not limited to the Medicare Annual Election Period but they are often subject to underwriting. These plans are also sold by private insurance companies, like Humana. Medicare Supplement plans on the market today do not include prescription drug coverage.
- Comparison shop. Research a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, and its network of doctors and hospitals. Check to see if your prescriptions are on your plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs), as these can change each year. Compare plan benefits, such as dental, vision and hearing benefits; a fitness program; virtual doctors and behavioral health coverage.
- Ask an expert. You are not alone! There are resources if you have questions:
- If you prefer to learn more in person, you can meet with a licensed sales agent. To speak to a Humana licensed sales agent call 1-877-877-0714 (TTY: 711) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.
- If you prefer to do your research online, you can visit websites such as gov and humana.com/medicare to view and compare plans in your area.
- You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speak to someone by phone about 2019 Medicare plan information.
To learn more about Special Enrollment Periods, visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (or TTY: 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Humana is a Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO, and PFFS organization, and stand-alone prescription drug plan, with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any Humana plan depends on plan renewal. For accommodations of persons with special needs at meetings, call 1-877-877-0714 (TTY: 711), 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.