Open Enrollment and Medicare options

It's time for open enrollment in the nation's health care marketplace. In 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law and gave the first card to his predecessor Harry Truman, there was only one Medicare plan.

All the benefits were handled by the government.

Today, retirees are just as likely to have Medicare Advantage.

Those plans handle the Medicare basics, and then some.

Robert Smith is Vice President of Sales for Medicare at Independence Blue Cross.

He says, "Often you get additional benefits, like dental benefits, hearing aid benefits, eyewear benefits, and some plans now are offering chiropractic benefits, and podiatry benefits."

Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies, and there are dozens of them, with varying costs and benefits. Smith says you need to shop around.

"My mother used to say, mind your p's and q's," said Smith.

P's, as in Premiums, prescriptions, and providers.

"What are the premiums, are your prescriptions covered? And, the providers, your doctors, your hospitals that you use, are they covered?" added Smith.

Seeing specialists, or getting care in a hospital outside your network can be a costly experience, so check the list carefully.

The same goes for the formulary, or list of medications a plan covers.

Fortunately, has an online tool to help you compare.

"People can go in, and put in their drugs, and compare the different plans that are in their zip code," said Smith.

If you need help sorting out details and deciding whether an advantage plan is right for you, call the plans, talk to Medicare, or seek an independent broker.

Open enrollment ends December 7th.
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