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Check out the New Medicare ChangesPosted Tuesday, March 29, 2011, at 9:27 AM
Medicare has undergone many changes in the last few years. Some of the changes began in January of this year under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). Following is a list of some of the changes beneficiaries will experience this year:
Access to a new Physician Compare Website
A new CMS Healthcare Provider Directory is now available through the Physician Compare Website. This consumer-friendly site is designed to help beneficiaries and their families locate and compare health professionals in communities across the country. You can find the contact information for a physician, gender, what their specialties are, where they completed their degree as well as residency or other clinical training, what language(s) they speak and whether or not they participate in the Medicare program.
To get to this website go to www.medicare.gov and click on "facilities and doctors" on the left side of the page. When you do, you will not only be able to compare doctors but also hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies.
Improvements to Medicare Preventive Benefits
Beginning January 1, 2011, people with Medicare have access to a new
'Annual Wellness Visit' where they can receive a comprehensive health risk assessment and develop a personalized prevention plan.
Improved cost-sharing for Medicare preventive services:
Also, as of January 1, the ACA also eliminates cost-sharing for Medicare-covered preventive services that are recommended (rated A or B) by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The services which now have no cost-sharing (if a doctor accepts assignment under Medicare, meaning he or she accepts what Medicare pays for a service as payment in full) include:
* abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
* bone mass measurement
* breast cancer screening/mammograms
* cardiovascular screening tests (although you generally will have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount far the doctor's visit)
* certain types of colorectal cancer screenings (i.e., flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy)
* diabetes screening tests (although you generally will have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor's visit)
* flu shots
* Hepatitis B shots
* HIV screening tests (although you generally will have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor's visit)
* medical nutrition therapy services (for those with diabetes or kidney disease, or who have had a kidney transplant in the last 36 months and whose doctor refers them for these services)
* Pap tests and pelvic exams
* physical exams -- both the "Welcome to Medicare" visit and the annual "wellness visit"
* pneumococcal shot
* prostate cancer screening
* smoking cessation counseling
More people are now eligible for the smoking cessation counseling benefit under Medicare. Now all beneficiaries who smoke can take advantage of as many as eight smoking cessation counseling sessions.
To learn more about Medicare-covered preventive benefits, go to: ww.medicare.gov, click on "New to Medicare", scroll down to "Part B", click on Part B, scroll down to "preventative services" and click on it
Improvements to the Medicare Part D
Savings in the coverage gap (do-nut hole). Beginning this year people with Medicare will benefit from reduced cost-sharing for prescriptions they purchase while in the coverage gap by receiving a 50% savings on covered brand-name prescriptions and a 7% discount on generic drugs. Medicare will continue to reduce beneficiary cost-sharing and phase out the Part D coverage gap by 2020.
Changes to the enrollment period. Starting this year the annual enrollment period will begin October 15th and continue until December 7th.
This article has given you several web-sites to get more information on the subjects, if you don't have access to a computer the information will also be found in your Medicare and You 2011 book or you can call SEMO Area Agency on Aging at 335-3331 or 1-800-392-8771 and ask for Jackie, Liz or Ruth.
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Ruth Dockins is the Public Information Director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging and author of 'Age Spots,' a column/blog which is featured in several Southeast Missouri newspapers and is devoted to seniors and senior lifestyles.
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