What Senior Citizens Need to Know About Medicare in
Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USA
Families USA presents a Q&A on information seniors
need to know about Medicare in 2014
Dec. 16, 2013 - Many seniors are now looking to
Medicare decisions and options for 2014, since open enrollment has
closed. Families USA has provided answers to questions they anticipate
will be on the minds of senior citizens in the new year. It also has
advice for newcomers to the program in the column below.
Medicare in 2014:
What You Need to Know
It’s the start of a new year, which is a time of
review and reflection for many people. Now is also a good time to look
at the Medicare changes that will happen this year, and a good time to
talk about Medicare as an important source of health coverage for
readers who’ll be turning 65.
Question : What will 2014 bring for Medicare
beneficiaries in terms of changes in out-of-pocket costs?
While prices for everything seem to go up every
year, the good news for Medicare beneficiaries is that premiums for
Medicare Part B will remain the same for 2014, holding steady at $104.90
a month. The Part B deductible also remains unchanged at $147 a year.
Question : What if I have Medicare Part D
prescription drug coverage?
Those with Medicare Part D will see a $15 drop in
their deductible, from $325 in 2013 to $310 in 2014. And the “doughnut
hole” (coverage gap), which has been getting smaller each year since
2011, will continue to get smaller too. In 2014, the doughnut hole will
be $158.75 smaller than it was in 2013, another step closer to the goal
of eliminating this coverage gap by 2020.
And while you’re in the doughnut hole, you’ll pay
less than half (only 47.5 percent) of the cost of name-brand drugs. The
discount for generic drugs also goes up this year: People with Part D
will pay 72 percent of the cost of generic drugs, down from 79 percent
Question : What else will 2014 bring for
The Affordable Care Act added a strong emphasis on
preventive care to Medicare. The start of a new calendar year means that
a whole range of free preventive services are again available to
Medicare beneficiaries. Annual services (those you get once every 12
months) include a wellness visit with your primary care physician, a
mammogram or prostate cancer screening, and a flu shot.
Question : What if I’m turning 65 in 2014? How
do I sign up for Medicare?
The answer to that question depends on whether you
are getting Social Security benefits.
If you are getting Social Security, you should
receive materials from the Social Security Administration (or from the
Railroad Retirement Board, if you are a railroad retiree) about your
Medicare options a couple of months before your 65th
birthday. When you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare
Parts A and B, with an option to decline Part B. If you want to decline
Part B, be careful: Unless you have other health insurance (such as
coverage through a spouse’s policy), there’s a big penalty for signing
up later. And you should research your options for Medicare Part D so
you’re ready to choose a drug plan.
If you are not receiving Social Security, you have
to proactively sign up for Medicare, with the same options for Part B as
Whether you are receiving Social Security or not,
you have an alternative to signing up for traditional Medicare: You can
sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan instead. Medicare Advantage plans
are private plans that include the coverage you’d get under Medicare
Parts A and B, and they may include drug coverage too.
Your best sources of information on your options
You can also get free, in-person help from your
State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Call 1-800-MEDICARE to
get a referral.
Question : What are key dates to keep in mind
If you didn’t sign up for Part A or B when you
first became eligible, you can sign up during the general enrollment
period, which runs from January 1 to March 31, 2014. Remember, you may
pay a higher premium for enrolling late.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you have
until February 15, 2014, to leave your Medicare Advantage plan and move
to (or back into) traditional Medicare.
Between October 15 and December 7, 2014, you can
change your Part D drug plan, join a Medicare Advantage plan, and
exercise other Medicare coverage options.
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