Medicare enrollment begins and ends early this year. The annual period to sign up or make changes to your plan begins on Oct. 15, 2011, a month early. The most important change is the cutoff date: Circle the date on your calendar, because the enrollment period now ends on Dec. 7, 2011. This way you’ll have your card at the beginning of the New Year.
As always, you only have this one time per year to make any changes to your coverage for 2012. Changes can include Medicare Advantage, your drug coverage, Medigap supplemental or your regular Medicare.
There are a number of changes you’ll need to figure into your decisionmaking:
— Drug coverage (Part D) will cost a bit more. At this point, however, they don’t know how much that will be for the premiums and deductibles, but you can find out at the website or phone number below.
— Part B premiums will increase a bit as well. Watch the news, as the cost of living adjustments (COLA) are generally announced sometime in October each year.
— “Doughnut hole” coverage has a few changes. When you reach the limits of coverage, you’ll get a 14 percent discount on generic drugs and a 50 percent discount on brand names.
No matter what type of plan you have, beware. There could be changes to all parts of your coverage. Be sure to check the fine print so you know what you’re getting.
Read your Annual Notice of Change carefully. To learn more about all the changes, go online to www.medicare. gov and look for the publication called “Medicare & You 2012.” To find a plan in your area, click on Resource Locator, then scroll down to Medicare Plan Finder. You also can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).