Medicare recipients are now getting their 2011 handbooks, but the new books have one glaring omission. The handbooks fail to include the prices for Medicare Part B premiums for 2011. In past years, those premium amounts were included for recipients earning less than $85,000 a year.
Critics of the Obama administration say the information is being kept under wraps until after the mid-term elections. Since premiums will likely go up, those critics have said the administration did not want the rising health care costs to become an election issue for the critical senior citizen voting block.
The dollar amounts could have been delayed because of the sweeping changed in the heath care system put into place earlier this year.
The booklet explained itself, as; “At the time of printing, these amounts weren’t available. However, most people will continue to pay the same Part B premium they paid last year.”
For people who still have questions, there is free counseling available through the Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program, an organization that collaborates with Medicare to help explain available options. The program offers seminars or offers individual meetings or phone sessions with a trained caseworker.
For those eligible for Medicare, here are some important things to consider:
• Escape the Medicare maze and sign up for the program before you turn 65.
• Do not delay signing up for Medicare Part B after you are no longer working.
• Understand the prescription-drug benefits and read the rules.
• Do not confuse Medicare with Medicare Advantage. A downside to the Advantage program is a recipient may pay higher out of pocket expenses for serious illnesses.
• Find out if your retirement plan will work with Medicare.
• Check into buying a Medigap plan with your state’s program or shiptalk.org.
There is also the website www.medicare.gov that allows visitors compare different plans themselves. Select the health plan finder and enter your ZIP code or county where you live and then select the type of plan you want, such as a Medigap policy or Medicare Advantage.
Many pharmacists also offer individual in-person consultations. CVS pharmacies offers guidance on Part D plans through the site www.cvs.com/medicare.