Created as part of the Social Security Act Amendment in 1965, Medicare is a fee-for-service plan offered to Americans 65 and over as well as those with disabilities and people with End Stage Renal Disease. In 2009, Medicare provided health insurance coverage to 46.3 million people.
Medicare Part A covers services for inpatient hospital stays, inpatient mental health facilities, skilled nursing facilities, hospice care, and some home health care. For the majority of Americans, there is no cost for Medicare Part A coverage because Medicare taxes were paid while working.
Medicare Part B covers doctors’ visits, outpatient hospital care, diagnostic testing, durable medical equipment, outpatient mental health services, outpatient occupational and physical therapies. Before Part B begins paying benefits, you must meet an annual deductible. Additionally, you are responsible for the Medicare Part B monthly premium. The Part B deductible and premium rates may change every year in January so it is very likely the amount you pay for Medicare can change from year to year.
Medicare Part D is coverage for prescription drugs and is only available through private companies. You are responsible for the monthly premium and a portion of the costs of each prescription (co-pays). Part D plan premiums and co-pays change every year and each private plan has different costs. So again, it is very likely the amount you pay for Medicare can change from year to year. It is recommended that you compare plans to find out what plan will best fit your needs and budget.
October 1 – November 14
2010 benefit and premium information is available from all plans for the coming plan year.
November 15 – December 31
Open enrollment period for you and your beneficiaries.
January 1 – March 31
Review period during which you may still switch plans if you find you are not satisfied with your choice.
April 1 –November 14
During this time frame, often called the ‘lock-in’ period, you cannot make changes to your plan except under certain circumstances.