Patients should review Medicare coverage during current open enrollment

In most cases, Medicare patients have one chance during the year – the open enrollment period – during which they can make a change to their health and prescription drug coverage. The Medicare open enrollment period started on Oct. 15, 2012, and runs through Dec. 7, 2012 for coverage year 2013.

[See also: Medicare preventive services provided to 12 million patients through first four months of 2012]

New coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2013 for patients who make changes during open enrollment, according the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

As noted by the Maine Medical Association (MMA) in an Oct. 15 update to members, many things can change for patients in the course of a year: new diagnoses, changes in prescription drug needs, among others. MMA shared three tips for helping patients (and your practice) during the open enrollment period:

  • Host a Medicare Part D enrollment clinic at your practice or facility.
  • Connect with your local Area Agency on Aging, and advertise local Part D enrollment clinics at your practice or facility.
  • Let your front desk staff and patient assistance staff know what resources are available to patients who have questions (both at your practices as well as in the community). This is particularly important for new staff members.

MMA also noted that while you’re having the discussion around Part D, it’s a great time to remind your patients how the Affordable Care Act has lowered the cost of prescription drugs and preventive care. Enhancements include:

  • Improved coverage for preventive screenings including mammograms, colorectal cancer screening, depression screening and more.
  • Discounted name brand and generic drugs, in the donut hole.
  • New services, such as the Annual Wellness Visit, which are meant to keep your patients well, longer and engage in long term preventive care planning.

[See also: Medicare stable until 2024, trustees report ]

For more information on open enrollment, you can refer your patients to your local Area Agency on Aging at 1-877-353-3771 or the Medicare website.