Your Medicare menu needs close look

Today begins open enrollment for the more than 1 million Medicare beneficiaries in Georgia. It’s often a time of confusion because of the dizzying array of choices for seniors,including Part D, Medicare Advantage, traditional Medicare, and Medigap or medicare supplement policies.

If you’re a senior or someone who is helping a Medicare beneficiary, there’s no need to rush. The enrollment period closes Dec. 31. And even if you feel completely satisfied with your current plan, it’s wise to check out the alternatives. Premiums and other costs can change from year to year, and under Part D drug plans, you should make sure your medications are still covered by your current plan.

Health reform, meanwhile, has brought a few goodies for seniors. The “doughnut hole” on Medicare prescription drugs is closed a bit, with a 50 percent discount on brand-name medications for those falling into this coverage gap. Medicare also now covers wellness checkups and charges no co-pays for most preventive care.

Consumer Reports on Health has a guide to Medicare Advantage plans, which are run by private insurers and are an alternative to traditional Medicare.

These Advantage plans may not have Part D prescription drug coverage. And Consumer Reports points out it may be best to ignore the brochures you’ve received in the mail and go to the Medicare plan finder link that the article provides.

For those looking at stand-alone Part D plans, Consumer Reports also explains your choices.  And Lucy Soto in her AJC Spotlight column gives tips to people sorting through the range of Part D drug plans offered to Georgians.

Medicare provides its own helpline at 1-800-633-4227. And GeorgiaCares, an insurance counseling service, also offers information and assistance for people on Medicare at 1-800-669-8387.