blood pressureEvery year, in the fall, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to enroll in, dis-enroll from or make changes to Part D prescription drug plans.  This is referred to as the “annual enrollment period.”  As a result, companies are required to send out letters called “annual notice of change” to each member enrolled in their plan.  Medicare and the Social Security Administration also send out various letters which include important information about how your eligibility for various benefits may be changing.  And finally, but probably most annoying, are the marketing materials sent by other companies trying to convince you to give their plan a try.   How is anyone supposed to know what to keep and what to toss?

One helpful tip to remember is that CMS, the Medicare agency, color codes most of their important notices during this time of year.  Their letters may come on tan, grey, orange, blue, purple, yellow or green paper.  If you receive a letter like this, you should probably hang onto it.  If you do not understand what the letter is telling you, then you should probably ask for help.

The letters from the Social Security Administration do not come on colored paper, but their name and return address on the envelope should be indication enough that the mailing may be very important and again, not something to be tossed out.

It is also advisable that you keep any letters that come from the Part D plan that you arecurrently enrolled in.  They may include information about how your plan is changing for next year or they could inform you that your plan won’t even be available in 2013 and that you have to find a new one.

Marketing material from companies that you do not do business with is far less important and can probably be tossed out.  But what if you aren’t sure?

Your Elderly Benefit Specialist can help if you are age 60 or older.  They can look through all of your envelopes and explain what is important and what is junk mail.  They can help you decide if your Part D plan will be right for you in 2013 or if you need to make a change.  This is an extremely busy time of year and completing computer work before calling for an appointment saves lots of time.  Many of you will be able to make your own changes based on the information that we will send you about the available 2013 plans.

There are BIG changes coming this year for Medicare Part D plans and for Medicare Advantage plans.  Don’t wait until the last minute to figure it out.  If you aren’t sure what to do and don’t have a family member or a knowledgeable friend to help, call your local Aging and Disability Resource Center at 1-877-794-2372 and someone will be able to assist you.  Other helpful resources include Medicare at 1-800-633-4227; the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Helpline at 1-866-456-8211 which is designed for those age 60 and older; or the Disability Drug Benefit Helpline at 1-800-926-4862 for those under age 60 and on disability.  If you enrolled in Family Care, your case manager will also help.  Give them a call.