Medicare Open Enrollment Ends Dec. 31

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Medicare Open Enrollment December 31 Deadline
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The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is reminding beneficiaries to review their prescription drug health insurance coverage and health plan needs for 2009 before the annual enrollment period ends on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

Kerry Weems, CMS acting administrator, said Monday that many beneficiaries will see changes in their current choices, "so it's important that people with Medicare take advantage of the enhanced tools CMS has provided to review the coverage and costs of their health or drug plans for next year."

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Medicare's open enrollment period began Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 31, according to Weems. For Medicare Advantage (MA) plans only, beneficiaries can make one change -- enrolling in a new plan, changing plans or canceling a current plan -- between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2009. However, the Medicare Advantage open enrollment period cannot be used to start or to stop Medicare drug coverage, or to enroll or "disenroll" in a Medicare Medical Savings Account plan, Weems said in an agency news release.

To help clients make the best choices, CMS urges enrollees to use the online tools available at www.medicare.gov (the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder or Medicare Options Compare for health coverage) to review options for the coming year. In addition, the 2009 Medicare & You handbook, mailed to beneficiaries in October, includes tips on selecting a plan and an overview of plan options, Weems said.

Those without a computer can get the information by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Weems said callers should first prepare before dialing by writing down any questions they have, along with information about their current health or prescription drug plan; have their Medicare card handy; and a list of current medications used in front of them for reference.

More than 4,000 customer service operators will provide help in English and in Spanish from six toll-free Medicare call centers across the United States, Weems said

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