Medicare Part D 2009 Open Enrollment

Published by Steve Hedberg on October 29, 2008 Under Medicare

When Medicare first became law in the sixties, it was intended to provide health benefits for those over the age of sixty-five, as well as others who suffer from specific medical conditions.

Originally there were two parts of Medicare, which covered hospital stays, home medical equipment, doctor visits, and other related services. However, one common medical expense was missing. This was the coverage of prescription drugs, which was addressed by the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. This went into effect in January of 2006.

How Are Prescription Drugs Covered?

Most people who qualify for traditional Medicare are also eligible to receive prescription drug coverage, which is referred to as Part D benefits. While most people who are eligible for Medicare can receive Part D benefits, it is necessary for the insured to specifically sign up for a prescription drug program. Every year, those on Medicare are given a period of around a month where they can freely sign up for a Medicare Prescription Drug plan.

While generally the insured must sign up for a separate Prescription Drug Plan, this is not necessarily the case if a Medicare Advantage Plan is used. A Medicare Advantage Plan (MAP) is a privately run insurance plan that is available for those on Medicare. Instead of going with the traditional federally run Medicare plan, most can opt for a privately run MAP, which is required to cover the same things as traditional Medicare, but is given flexibility in how they do it. As a result of this flexibility, some plans might offer less expensive premiums for doctors visits, but more expensive premiums for durable medical equipment, like lift chairs.

Many MAPs also include a prescription drug plan, so if you sign up for one of these, it will not be necessarily to sign up for a separate Prescription Drug Plan. If you don’t sign up for a MAP with a prescription drug plan, you will be required to separately sign up to receive Part D benefits. Every year, there is an open period of enrollment that is held towards the end of the year. Failure to sign up during this time will not restrict the insured from receiving benefits, but it will cause an increase in premiums.

When Do I Sign Up?

This year the open enrollment period is being held between November 15, 2008 and December 31, 2008. Before signing up, it is very important to compare the different plans to find out which one will work best for your specific needs. This is also true of MAP plans.

You can easily compare these plans by visiting the Medicare Site and clicking on “Medicare Prescription Drug 2009 Plan Data.”

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