Budgetary considerations are running amok, rumors abound and isn’t that Health Care Reform deal still running the course? Again, so what’s new?

Well, this is the first January 2011 I’m aware of — at least on our calendar — and that’s new. And 2011 is bringing some changes, aside from adding another year to our accomplishment of living through 2010.

For one thing, if you’re currently on a Medicare Advantage Plan, you have the option of changing back to traditional/original Medicare until Feb. 14. And, if you do, you’ll also be able to pick-up a Medicare Part D plan (prescriptions) during that time. And, no, you do not have the option of changing Medicare Advantage Plans during this period — only going to original Medicare.

As to Health Care Reform, 2011 has some new dynamics:

• Beginning this year, if you are on Medicare Part D, and reach the coverage gap (donut hole), you’ll have a 50 percent discount on Medicare covered drugs, and if all goes as planned, this discount will increase as the years go by. Currently, the plan is for the coverage gap to be gone by 2020.

• Certain preventative services will be without cost to Medicare clients, such as flu shots, breast exams, some screenings and so on. It’s all part of a wellness approach in order to catch things before they hit crisis mode.

• There’s also a plan to increase the discharge planning when at-risk Medicare patients are leaving the hospital. It’s being called The Community Care Transitions Program, and the goal is to explore support options in the community prior to leaving the hospital.

Other things are in the works, and you can view the timeline and planned changes at www.healthcare.gov. Hit the links for “Understand the New Law,” then “Timeline: What’s Changing and When,” and you will be able to see the overview as it currently exists.

Speaking of budgetary considerations: This year will see a change (increased cost) in prescription co-pays for folks who are on Medicare Part D and are on both Medicare and Medicaid (so called “dual-eligible”). In the past, Medicaid picked up the co-pay costs, and for 2011, that is no longer the case. Depending on income eligibility, the costs of co-pay will range from $1.10 to $6.30 per prescription.

Give us a call and we can help you wade through the changes.

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