Holly Glen Gearhart
Friday, Dec. 7, is the enrollment deadline for Medicare health coverage for 2013.
Medicare part A costs about $99 a month, but supplemental plans that cover prescription drugs and pay for medical procedure expenses not fully covered by Medicare can run into serious money.
The good news is that Washington State has programs to help you get these benefits free or at lower cost, but you must enroll by December 7.
The state-sponsored program, called the Community Health Plan, has five prescription drug and HMO plans and a standalone program for prescription drugs. Many other programs are available with similar, if not more fully covered, benefit schedules. You can compare plans at www.aarp.org (you don’t have to be an AARP member to compare programs on their site).
The Community Health Plan for Washington can be accessed both online and by telephone; call (800) 944-1247 8 a.m.-to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Medicare can be contacted by phone and online around the clock at 1-800-Medicare, TTY 1-877-486-2048, or visit www.medicare.gov.
If you miss the enrollment deadline, you will have to wait for another enrollment period to get coverage. If you aren’t sure what plan your physician accepts, call your doctor’s office or visit his or her website.
The Affordable Health Care Act expanded Medicare coverage for such things as preventative scans, recovery programs and more. For example, Medicare did not cover eyeglasses unless they were medically necessary after covered eye surgeries. Coverage now includes eyeglasses every two years, without the stipulation of having had eye surgery.
Some of the supplemental plans available now cover dental care, including routine cleanings, oral exams, fluoride treatments and dental x-rays. Some plans cost you nothing, depending on income restrictions. Some of the supplemental plans have co-pays ranging from 0 to 20 percent, as long as you stay in their provider network. These work just like any HMO.
Sign up now; get on a plan. And if you decide you need more or less coverage you can change at any time, but if you are not on a plan by Friday you won’t have medical coverage until the next enrollment period, which could be a full calendar year away.