Talking About Medicare: Your Guide to Understanding the Program, 2012
Information Sources to Select a Plan
There are a number of useful information sources that can help you learn more about Medicare, compare the plans serving your area, and make choices that work best for you.
The Medicare & You Handbook
The official Medicare handbook is mailed to all people on Medicare each year. The handbook contains a summary of Medicare benefits and cost-sharing requirements, coverage options, and answers to frequently asked questions about Medicare. The handbook is also available online at www.medicare.gov/publications/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf.
Medicare.gov, the Official Medicare Website
Medicare.gov is the official Medicare website, and contains general and detailed information about Medicare, including information about benefits covered, limits, and costs. Medicare.gov also has tools to compare drug and health plans in your area.
To compare plans or find out more information about a particular drug coverage option, you can visit Medicare’s Plan Finder website at www.medicare.gov. The website offers detailed information on monthly premium amounts and the deductible. For drug plans, it also lists what drugs are covered under the plan and how much you pay for each individual drug.
The Medicare Plan Finder can be used in various ways:
- You can enter your zip code and what type of plan you are interested in, and the tool shows you a list of all of the plans in your area. From there, you can research the individual plan’s features, or
- For drug plans, you can narrow your search by entering your list of drugs and/or your preferences for the amount you would pay for the premium and deductible, whether the plan offers mail order, and what pharmacy you prefer.
Either way you navigate the site, you will be able to get contact information for the plans and even sign up for most plans through www.medicare.gov.
To compare different Medigap policies that are offered in your area, you can visit Medicare’s Medigap Policy Finder website at www.medicare.gov. Similar to the Medicare Plan Finder, the Medigap Policy Finder offers information on plans available in your area. For this plan finder, you can enter your zip code and health status, select the benefit structure and plan type that you are interested in, and view the companies that sell Medigap policies in your area.
1-800-MEDICARE, the Official Medicare Hotline
The Medicare program operates a toll-free hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to answer your questions 24 hours a day, including weekends. If you do not have internet access to use the Medicare Plan Finder or the Medigap Policy Finder on the Medicare website, you may call 1-800-MEDICARE for similar information.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs
You can also get help in understanding your Medicare options and finding the best plan for you by calling your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Phone numbers and websites for the SHIP in your state are listed in the table below. SHIPs offer local health insurance counseling at no charge. Your state SHIP will be able to help you find the coverage options that are best for you, and address any concerns about your Medicare rights, billing problems, or answer your other Medicare-related questions.
Other community-based groups may hold Medicare information sessions at local senior centers, libraries, government centers or other community areas. Some events may be sponsored by companies offering plans in your area or brokers that sell policies for plans. Make sure to find out who is sponsoring any event you are interested in attending, so you can know who is presenting the information, whether it is educational or marketing information, and whether it covers all plans available in your area, or only those offered by a specific company.
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also of interest
- The Rising Cost of Living Longer: Analysis of Medicare Spending by Age for Beneficiaries in Traditional Medicare
- Visualizing Health Policy: Medicare Spending: A Look at Present, Short-Term and Long-Term Trends
- Health Affairs Article: At Least Half of New Medicare Advantage Enrollees Had Switched From Traditional Medicare During 2006-11
- The Role of Medicare and the Indian Health Service for American Indians and Alaska Natives: Health, Access and Coverage